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The Hidden Hazard - Black Ice

The Hidden Hazard - Black Ice

Dealing with Black IceBlack Ice is one of the most dangerous threats to drivers during the winter months. Unlike frost, its is not visible to the naked eye and often drivers don’t adjust their driving accordingly for the weather conditions. The danger of black ice doesn’t stop at drivers – pedestrians and cyclists are also at risk.

What is Black Ice?

Black ice a thin coat of ice on the surface of the ground. You can’t really see black ice. Often Black Ice make it look like the ground is wet as it is clear, and you can see the ground surface through it. Black Ice generally forms when there is a sharp dip in temperature after wet conditions. According to AccuWeather, Black Ice is most likely to form when it is raining, and the air is at or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Be vigilant after bouts of snow as the melting snow can often cause Black Ice if the temperature drops.

Where will Black Ice form?

Black Ice can form on any outside surface, but extra care must be taken on streets and roads that do not get much sunshine. Even later in the day when the sun has been up for some time these areas will still have Black Ice. It if often complacency from road users and pedestrians that causes accidents.

How do you treat Black Ice?

Thankfully we have local authorities and winter maintenance companies throughout the UK who monitor the road and weather conditions 24/7. They use their expertise to identify weather conditions that are likely to cause black ice and head out with their ‘gritting’ machinery to spread de-icing salt on the road. Some companies do add sand or grit to help with traction, but de-icing rock salt really is the main star. It helps to prevent the ice form forming and melts areas that have already started to freeze. Unfortunately, the gritters are often limited to main arterial routes like highways and town centres but householders and businesses can buy bags of de-icing salt and help keep their own pathways and pavements free from black ice, making it safe.

What to Do if you Hit Black Ice in the Car?

Hitting Black Ice can be a little bit scary if you are not expecting it. The best thing to do is stay calm and not make any sudden or sharp manoeuvres. Keep the steering wheel straight and try to brake as little as possible. If you feel the car turning to the left or right, make a very gentle turn of your steering wheel in the same direction. This may feel counter intuitive, but it avoids skids and spinning out. If your car has ABS, you will want to apply the brakes firmly and the car will pump the brakes lightly; if not you will need to pump the brakes *lightly* yourself. Black Ice often forms in patches and the idea is for you to pass or slide over the area with as much control as possible.

If you notice any road users up ahead sliding or making any unusual manoeuvres be aware that they may have encountered black ice. Ensure you have a sufficient stopping distance between you (don’t tailgate!) and travel slowly. It is always important to keep your windscreen free of dirt, ice and snow. You don’t want anything to prevent you from seeing properly.