Black Ice: How to Drive and What to Expect

Winter is here, and the landscape is covered with a blanket of snow as far as the eye can see. The bleached white landscape is picturesque as you drive, taking in its beauty on a brisk morning.


Then Suddenly, you are spinning out of control and go skidding through the street like a top, sliding into the embankment barely missing oncoming traffic!!!


What just happened, the roadway looked cleared of snow?!


You have just hit Black Ice, and it only takes a split second to lose control.

Black Ice is a very real threat and can form even after the roads are clear of snow. The slightest amount of moisture with a low wind chills and changing temperatures will create thin sheets of ice to form on road surfaces within minutes.

With the beauty of winter also comes the dangers of travel. To become a more effective driver in black ice conditions, you must first understand what black ice is, where it forms and when to expect it. Being prepared for this winter’s threat will not only keep you safe but will keep others safe as well.

What is Black Ice?

Black Ice is the accumulation of moisture on the surface of the ground that solidifies due to low temperatures. It is no different from regular ice; it just forms on the road surfaces and general blends in with roadways because it expresses grounds color, thus the name Black Ice.

When To Expect It? 

  • Rainy and snow conditions
  • Freezing temperatures
  • Low wind chills
  • Early morning or late in the evening when the temperature and traffic are the lowest.  

Where To Expect It?

  • Bridges
  • Underpasses and Overpasses
  • Ridges
  • Tunnels
  • Valleys
  • Curves/Turns
  • Intersections
  • Crossroads

The locations are endless. Anywhere and everywhere could potentially create Black Ice.

How to identify Black Ice!

  • Regular roadways have a dull dark color.
  • Black ice has a shiny, smooth appearance.

Preparing for Travel

Here are a few things that you should be sure to have before you travel in cold weather conditions.

  • Snow tires or studded tires
  • Snow chains
  • Reliable windshield wipers front and back
  • Ensure your car defrost settings operate properly -Especially Important-
  • Ensure your car lights operate correctly internal/external -Also Important-
  • Car supplies - Make sure you have a bag together just in case of an accident in the cold.     
  • Road Flares/warning cones
  • Blankets/Extra coat/Gloves
  • Water and snacks
  • Flashlight/Matches/Candles
  • Seat belt cutter/Pocketknife
  • Medkit/first aid

Know your Route

From home to work then everywhere else, be sure you have a plan and know what roads you will take. Main roads tend to be warmer due to higher traffic and the less likely to create black ice during the day but freezes over with the night. Take great caution when driving on any road in icy conditions. There is no need to speed or drive reckless.  For most cities, the neighborhoods and side streets are not the primary concern and usually never cleared which present dangers of their own.


Keep your mobile phone charged as often as you can. An additional battery would be best, even if you have cord charger for the car. There is no telling how long your car battery will last if stranded in the snow. It also never hurts to let someone where you are going and when you are leaving. 



55 Stay Alive

There is an old rule of thumb "55 stays alive." There is no need to rush or speed in winter conditions no matter how capable your vehicle. There are many factors to contribute to black ice accidents, so keep it slow and control the situation.

  • Keep It Slow
  • Stay Calm
  • Do not drive with your cruise control.
  • Keep your distance from the cars in front of you.

If you slip on Black Ice

  • Do not Panic
  • Keep your wheels straight
  • Downshift
  • If you must use your brakes, pump them only

For Front-wheel drive vehicles

  • Don’t use your brakes or accelerator
  • Turn the wheel the same direction your car is skidding

Rear-wheel drive and All-wheel drive Vehicles

  • Steer towards the direction you want it to go
  • Gently press the accelerator

If you do not have antilock brakes

  • Lightly pump your brakes
  • Steering your wheel slowly out of the slide

If you have antilock brakes

  • Brake normally

Although, winter is the most beautiful season it is a force to be reckoned. Take the utmost care this season and drive with your new knowledge of black ice and care. Allow time to make a safe journey to wherever you travel and keep up with road conditions through your local radio channels. Travel safe and stay warm.