Winter driving isn’t only about dealing with snow – ice on the road is a real threat! Black ice, in particular, is dangerous because it’s hard to see. You can protect yourself by understanding and knowing how to deal with this winter issue.


  1. Understand that black ice is like regular ice. It is a glaze that forms on surfaces (especially roads, sidewalk, and driveways) because of a light freezing rain or because of melting and re-freezing snow, water, or ice on surface. It’s called “black ice” because it tends to look like the rest of the pavement on the road, although in reality, it’s actually clear. Black ice forms without creating bubbles, which allows it to blend in with any surface it forms over. Black ice is dangerous precisely because it’s hard to detect in advance.


  1. Know WHERE to expect black ice. Black ice usually forms just about the freezing point. Sometimes in frigid weather conditions on highways, black ice will form due to the heat of tires on the road coupled with the freezing temperature. Keep an eye on the weather and highway reports.

– Black ice forms most commonly at night or in the early morning when the temperatures are at their lowest, or when the sun isn’t around to warm the roads.

– Black ice tends to form on parts of the road without much sunshine, such as along a tree-lined route or a tunnel. It will also from more frequently on roads that are less traveled on.

– Black ice forms readily on bridges, overpasses and the road beneath overpasses. This is because the cold air is able to cool both the top and under the bridge or overpass, bringing about faster freezing.


  1. Know WHEN to expect black ice. Black ice tends to form in the early morning and evening. During the daylight hours, the road is usually warmer and less likely to create black ice. But remember: less likely does not mean “never”. Always be prepared for the possibility of encountering black ice.

– See the signs of black ice. If you are driving and see cars suddenly swerve for no apparent reason, black ice is likely a cause.


  1. Know how to see black ice – SOMETIMES. While black ice is transparent, it can sometimes be seen in the right lighting conditions – if you’re looking for it! Black ice almost always forms in very smooth, very glossy sheets. This glossy surface is your indication of potential black ice. If the majority of the road you’re driving on appears a dull black color, but the patch just ahead looks shiny, you may be about to drive onto black ice.


  1. Practice driving on slippery surfaces. If possible, and with a seasoned winter driver, practice driving on ice in a safe surrounding. Find a nice, large, empty parking lot with ice on it. Drive on ice. Practice braking on ice. Understand how your car feels and handles in these conditions. Know what ABS braking feels like, if you have it. Practicing this under controlled conditions can actually be a lot of fun.


  1. Deal with a black ice encounter. If you do hit black ice, your first reaction must be to remain calm and avoid overreacting. The general rule is to do as little as possible and allow the car to pass over the ice. Do not hit the brakes, and try to keep the steering wheel straight. If you feel the back end of your car sliding left or right, make a very gentle turn of the steering wheel in the same direction. If you try to struggle against it by steering in the opposite direction, you risk skidding or spinning out.


  1. Slow down by de-accelerating. Lift your feet off the accelerator completely and keep your steering wheel fixed in the position it is in. Slowing down will give you more control and prevent needless damage.

DO NOT touch the brakes. Doing so will likely cause you to skid. The idea is to slide over the ice in the direction the steering wheel is facing; usually black ice patches aren’t longer than 20 feet.


  1. If you can, shift into a lower gear and head for areas of traction. Low gears will give you more control. And even though black ice is virtually invisible, you may be able to head towards area of pavement that offer more traction. Such areas of traction may include textured ice, snow-covered areas, spots with sand, etc.


  1. If you end up going off the road, try to steer into things that will cause the minimum amount of damage. Ideally, steer into an empty field, yard, or a fluffy snowbank.


  1. After the black encounter, stay calm. You’re likely to be a bit rattled, but panicking isn’t going to help at any stage. If you must keep driving, do so very, very slowly. Alert other drivers that you’re going slowly by flashing your lights at all times.


Drive Safe!