The name is deceptive, as black ice is actually transparent, almost invisible, patches of ice that form without bubbles, making it look like the road surface beneath.
Black ice forms when ground temperatures are around zero degrees, and rain has fallen. The water freezes and binds to the road surface, leaving smooth, slippery areas that are difficult to spot while driving. You’ll find black ice at night or early in the morning (the coldest parts of the day), in shaded areas and on bridges or overpasses – where cold air flows under and over, keeping the road cold.
Spotting black ice
From some angles, black ice looks like wet, almost greasy patches on the road and footpath. However, especially when driving, it can be almost impossible to spot black ice until you’re on top of it and sliding. If you’ve experienced the conditions above, there’s a high chance that there could be black ice on the roads.
Driving on black ice
If there’s a chance of black ice or if there have been reports of it on the roads, the best thing to do is to not drive or delay your trip until the ice has melted or the roads have been treated.
Unlike snow, where some traction remains, driving on or across ice removes almost all control over a vehicle as it begins to slide. If you are driving while black ice threatens, keep a much larger following distance (at least four or five car lengths) and heavily reduce your speed.
If you do start to slide on black ice, follow these tips:
- Keep calm, do not brake or swerve suddenly
- Stay steady on the wheel
- Slowly ease your foot off the accelerator
- If you can find dry (or non icy) road, pull over in a safe space and wait for the ice to melt or for the road to be treated
Stay safe out there!