Black ice can be one of the most dangerous hazards for drivers, since it’s nearly invisible.
Here’s what you need to know about the weather condition.
What is black ice?
Black ice can form when the air is below freezing at the surface and it’s raining, according to AccuWeather. Melting snow that refreezes, freezing rain, mist or fog can also result in black ice.
It’s referred to as black ice because it’s clear and becomes almost invisible against the black asphalt of a road. This thin layer is very dangerous because you probably won’t see it in advance and might skid, take longer to brake and find your vehicle much more difficult to control.
When and where does black ice form?
Black ice is more likely to form around dawn and in the late evening because temperatures are often at their lowest then.
Shaded sections of road are prone to forming black ice because they don’t receive much sunlight to warm and melt the ice. Bridges and overpasses can also quickly form black ice because they’re hit by cold air above and below, so they freeze more quickly.
Back roads that don’t see much traffic also more prone to black ice formation. That’s because friction from traffic warms the road, so roadways that don’t have much traffic are more likely to ice over.
How should you drive in low temperatures?
Before you start driving, check your driveway and look at the road as best you can. If you see spots that look duller or shinier than their surroundings, it could be black ice.
Not seeing any spots isn’t a guarantee it’s safe, considering conditions can vary widely. It pays to stay alert when temperatures are at freezing or below, particularly when you’re driving on potential problem areas.
Don’t use cruise control, because you may need to slow down or make other adjustments. Cruise control tries to maintain a constant speed, so can cause your car to accelerate in a skid make it much more difficult to control your vehicle.
Be aware of the cars in front of you, and if the pavement looks wet, check to see if they’re leaving tracks or are kicking up water. If they’re not, it could be a sign the pavement is actually iced over.
Also avoid unnecessarily changing lanes, where you could hit black ice between lanes. Leave enough room between you and the car in front of you so you can have adequate time to stop if that car starts to fishtail. And if it’s your vehicle that hits black ice, it will take you about nine times longer to stop than it takes on dry pavement, according to georgia.gov.
Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC
Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC
What if you hit black ice?
If you do happen to hit a patch of black ice, use the following tips:
Avoid braking and instead ease off of the accelerator and steer in the direction you want the front of your car to go in. Don't overcorrect if your vehicle starts to slide.
If you have antilock brakes, don't pump your brakes. If you're driving a vehicle without antilock brakes, keep your heel on the floor and use firm pressure on the brake.
Sources: AJC.com, cars.com, Georgia.gov and accuweather.com.