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Black Ice: What You Need to Know


Winter brings the holiday season, family gatherings, delicious food and good company. But it also can bring severe and inclement weather that can affect day to day tasks. One task that may be severely impacted by winter weather is driving.

If possible, avoid driving if the weather is bad and the conditions will not improve, especially if black ice is likely to form. If you must drive, know what to expect and how to mitigate your chances of an accident or injury due to black ice.

What is Black Ice?

Black ice, sometimes called clear ice, is a thin coating of glaze ice on a surface, generally on streets and roads. The ice is not black in color, but rather transparent, so it appears black when on the road.

Black ice usually occurs when the road is wet from snow or rain and the temperature drops below freezing. According to Weather.com, “Black ice can also form if moisture in the air condenses and forms dew or fog, and then the temperature drops below freezing.” Black ice is commonly found on bridges, overpasses and spots on the road shaded by objects.

Why is Black Ice Dangerous?

Black ice is dangerous because it is hard to detect; you may not know you are encountering black ice until your car begins to slide. “While human error is the most common cause of car accidents,” note accident lawyers at Vanguard Attorneys, “poor road conditions or road maintenance can be another contributing factor”.

Black ice can cause devastating accidents that can result in serious injuries or even death. A car accident caused by black ice could cause broken bones, spinal cord damage, brain injuries, scarring, disfigurement, or internal organ damage.

Approaching Black Ice

Understanding how to approach and respond to black ice can help mitigate the chance of a serious car collision and better equip you for driving during the winter season.

Know Where to Expect Black Ice

As mentioned previously, black ice forms on parts of the road with limited sunlight and on bridges and overpasses. Keep an eye on weather and highway reports. If you see cars suddenly swerve for no reason, black ice may be to blame.

While black ice is often transparent, you may be able to see it in the proper lighting. If the road appears shiny, you may be approaching a stretch of black ice.

Know What to do if You Encounter Black Ice

Black ice is most commonly found in the early morning and in the evening, but it can happen at any time. If you see black ice, do not overreact. Try to stay as calm as possible.

Do as little as possible and allow your car to glide over the ice. Hitting the breaks could cause your car to spin out. Hold your steering wheel straight and in the same direction. Slow your vehicle down by lifting your foot off of the accelerator.

As you glide, head for areas of traction. This may include textured ice, snow-covered areas, and spots with sand. If you end up going off the road, steer into things that will cause the most minimum amount of damage.

Preventing a Black Ice Accident

Employing general defensive driving techniques can help prevent the chances of a surprise black ice accident. These tips can help reduce the chances of a serious accident or injury:

While the wintertime can bring many things, it can also bring dangerous driving conditions. Stay safe by understanding how to properly identify and respond to black ice!


Samantha is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University, with a degree in Communication Studies and a minor in Business Administration. She is passionate about safety and health and often works in conjunction with injury experts to help inform the online community about life-changing safety tips.

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