Black Ice: Driving Tips

From Philly to New York and Connecticut, a thin coat of freezing rain and ice turned stretches of roadways into a slick, treacherous mess. The storm — unofficially named “Icezilla” by Danbury, Conn., Mayor Mark Boughton — caused hundreds of accidents. Tragically, the storms and the “black ice” that formed on roads is responsible for at least two fatalities in the Philadelphia area.

Black ice is a very thin and almost invisible glaze that can form on roads, sidewalks and driveways after freezing rain or when snow melts and refreezes. In fact, just a trace amount of ice less than a quarter of an inch caused much of the recent issues between Philly and New York City. Despite its name, black ice just regular ice, only it’s clear and smooth. So it blends perfectly onto surfaces — making it hard to spot before it’s too late.

Black ice occurs most commonly at night and during predawn hours when surface temperatures are below freezing. Black ice can even form on the road even when the air temperature is above freezing, as long as the road surface remains below freezing.

Driving Tips

The best advice is to stay off the roads when the threat of black ice looms.

Stay tuned to the temperature outside after a rain, snow, or freezing rain event. Remember that even after the sun begins to heat roads and sidewalks, shady spots can remain dangerously slick.

Make sure to reduce your speed, turn on your headlights and be extra cautious on bridges and overpasses, roads with light traffic, and shaded portions of roadways (including under bridges).

If you hit black ice, it’s important to keep your cool. Take your foot off the accelerator. Don’t hit the brakes suddenly. Instead, apply your brakes gently. Turn your steering wheel slightly in the same direction you are heading. Braking and turning in the opposite direction can make the situation far worse and can cause you to skid out of control.

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