Rock Talk

How to Watch for Black Ice With Expert Eyes

Last updated on November 21, 2019 at 02:25 pm

With winter weather setting in across the northeast, drivers should be on the lookout for one of the season’s most dangerous hazards – black ice.

Black ice forms when the air is at 32 degrees or below and roads are wet from rain, snow or sleet. The ground temperature causes the precipitation to freeze as it contacts the road, creating the often hard-to-spot ice. Black ice can also form when melted snow or sleet refreezes on road surfaces.

If you have to be on the roads when icy conditions exist, take caution and keep an eye out for patches of black ice. Here’s how to watch for black ice: Roads that have black ice will be a little bit darker and duller than the rest of the surface. If you’re driving behind a car and the road looks wet, but there’s not spray coming from their tires, look out — there’s a good chance you may be encountering icy conditions.

Keep a sharp eye in rural or suburban areas where the roads aren’t as heavily traveled (black ice isn’t as likely to form on heavily traveled roads, but not impossible). You should also be especially wary on all bridges, viaducts and overpasses. You may have seen those signs “bridge freezes before rest of road” or “bridge may be icy.” Because they’re exposed on top and underneath, they freeze faster making them more susceptible to black ice conditions. Other spots that black ice tends to form includes the bottom of hills and heavily shaded roads.

If you do encounter an icy spot, remember:

  • Don’t hit the brakes, instead keep your steering wheel steady
  • Lift your foot off the accelerator
  • Be careful not to over-correct your steering wheel if you feel your car sliding

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10 thoughts on “How to Watch for Black Ice With Expert Eyes

  1. I do not drive in icy conditions. I might be careful on the roads, but there are drivers out there that are not very cautious. I am retired and I do not drive if I don’t have to. I prefer to be on the inside looking outside.

  2. Excellent! No matter how good a driver you THINK you are, you can always be a better one. I learned something from this article that I hadn’t known in 48 years of driving!

  3. Thank you!
    I have been driving for a long time but the recommended observations are new to me should I “have” to drive during a “Black Ice”situation.
    I hope to transmit this to my Children and Grandchildren.

  4. Another way is to listen for ice roads. Turn off the radio, stop talking, crack the window open and listen for water sounds coming from your tires. When it gets quiet, your on ice. If your on dry roads, the pavement makes a different sound then the ice.
    If on ice, ease over to one side of the road. The sand, or salt, or snow that’s pushed over there will give you a rough surface, and some traction. Don’t brake until you have traction.

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