Insurance and Finance

Black Ice

By James Mayfield 12.2.14

One of the most hazardous conditions in winter driving can also be the hardest to see. Every year, “black ice” is responsible for numerous accidents across Texas as bridges, overpasses, and roadways are hit by winter storms depositing freezing rain and sleet.

“Black ice is a thin, visually transparent coating of ice on a surface,” explains Brent McRoberts, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M University. “Even though the ice itself is not actually black, but rather clear, it is frequently found on black asphalt, which is why the term ‘black ice’ often is used.”

This form of ice typically accumulates on the roadways when the road surface drops below freezing (32°F) and water on the road freezes, creating a problem for motorists.

“Black ice is dangerous for drivers because it is difficult to see and often appears as wet pavement rather than pavement covered by ice,” McRoberts says. “It’s particularly dangerous at night because it is more difficult to detect and is more prevalent because of cooler asphalt temperatures.”

If you find yourself driving on black ice, Bryan Sparks, a Texas Farm Bureau Insurance agency manager based in Randall County, recommends you do your best to remain calm and avoid overreacting.

“Do not hit the brakes and try to let the vehicle just pass over the patch or area,” Sparks says. “If you feel the back end of your vehicle moving in one direction or another, just slightly turn your steering wheel in that direction. Most black ice is in patches and normally doesn’t last too long, so if you ease off the accelerator, your vehicle should be able to maintain traction or regain traction within a short distance.”

Before you head out on the roads this winter, check your route with the Texas Department of Transportation by calling 800.452.9292 or visiting

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