The first winter storm of the season often catches many of us by surprise. Soon most of us will have had our first big burst of winter weather. The snow-covered roads and plow trucks are an obvious indicator that we should be vigilant while driving. But what about when ice is present without these visual cues? Black ice is the winter threat many of us fail to observe until it’s too late.
What is black ice?
Black ice and clear ice are especially treacherous because they cannot be easily seen. The road may look perfect, but appearances can be deceiving. Black ice develops from super-cooled rain which freezes and becomes particularly slippery and hard to detect. The temperature may be above freezing but the road surface may still be slippery.
Tips for identifying and driving on black ice – Look, Listen and React
Roads that are subjected to large amounts of wind, such as those near fields and open water are particularly at risk. Remember that bridges freeze before roads (link to Pe’s post) and ice can form quickly when the temperature begins to drop. Use caution near bends on open roads where wind can create thin layers of ice when precipitation is present.
- Watch out for situations where the air temperature is just above or below freezing, damp road surfaces can quickly form an ice layer
- Listen to the water spray from the tires, if it suddenly stops the moisture on the road surface could have frozen
- Look at the windshield and be cautious if it becomes suddenly dry, this can be a sign that the road surface has become icy
- Watch for snow blowing across an open road – this is a sure sign of the potential for ice
Check out our guide with "5 ways to improve performance in slippery conditions" for more information on staying safe on winter roads.