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What is black ice, and how do you handle it on the road?

On Behalf of | Feb 9, 2021 | Car Accidents, Motor Vehicle Accidents |

Of all the road hazards you can come across in Minnesota, perhaps black ice is the most dangerous. You might have no idea it is there until your wheels come into contact with it. It could send you skidding off the road or into a vehicle coming the other way.

How does black ice form?

Black ice is a thin frozen layer of ice that forms when water lying on the surface freezes. It is transparent, so it appears black due to the road surface underneath.

How should you deal with black ice?

The best way to avoid the dangers of black ice is to anticipate its presence. Here are some tips to stay safe:

  • Check the forecast temperatures: If the temperatures are due to hit freezing, black ice is possible.
  • Watch out for shade areas: Trees, bridges and buildings can all cast shade over an area of the road. Black ice may remain there despite other areas of the road being clear.
  • Consider what traffic has preceded you: Cars put out heat. A constant traffic flow will raise the surface temperature preventing ice from forming or melting it if it has. If you are the first car down a busy street in the morning, there is a greater risk of encountering black ice than if you set out on the same road after the morning rush hour.
  • Leave early: The consequences of hitting black ice are likely to worsen the faster you are going. If you expect black ice, allow extra time for your journey. If you spot signs of it, slow down, even if it means you arrive late.
  • Learn how to skid safely: It pays to practice skidding safely with an instructor before you need to do it for real. Any overreaction will worsen your loss of control.

Preparing for the risk of black ice reduces the chance it causes you to crash. However, there is always the risk a less careful driver hits black ice and crashes into you.