Security and Safety

How to Drive on Black Ice

By Abi Grise Morgan 1.5.23

Black ice, also known as clear ice, is a thin layer of glazed ice that forms on roadways and sidewalks. It is difficult to see and can be extremely dangerous for drivers, as it can cause vehicles to lose traction and slide out of control. Texas’ wild weather fluctuations make driving on black ice a particular problem in the winter months.

If you find yourself driving on a precarious road, here are eight safety tips for winter driving, including how to drive on black ice when you can’t avoid it.

1. Check the Weather Before Heading Out

Black ice forms when the air temperature is at or below freezing (32 F), and there is moisture on the ground. It is most common on clear, calm nights when the ground is wet from rain or melted snow. It’s ideal if you can avoid driving on black ice or in precarious weather.

2. Pack Your Car With Roadside Essentials

Keep a winter driving essentials kit in your trunk, including thermal gear, first aid, snacks, and water, and never hesitate to pull over and wait for the roads to improve if you feel unsafe.

3. Prepare for the Unexpected

Black ice can form quickly, and without warning, so it is imperative to stay alert and pay attention to your surroundings. Keep a close eye on the road ahead and be prepared to take evasive action if necessary. When in doubt, assume you’re driving on black ice and proceed with caution.

4. Don’t Use Cruise Control

Cruise control can cause your vehicle to accelerate or brake suddenly, increasing the risk of a crash. If you must use cruise control, make sure to deactivate it well in advance of any areas where black ice may be present.

5. When in Doubt, Slow Down

Black ice can form on any road surface, but it is most commonly found on bridges, overpasses, and shady areas. As you approach these areas, reduce your speed and be prepared for a loss of traction.

6. Avoid Sudden Movements

Sudden acceleration, braking, or steering can cause your tires to lose contact with the road, increasing the risk of a crash. Instead, make smooth, gradual movements and give yourself plenty of time to react to any changes in road conditions.

7. Keep Your Distance

Black ice can make it challenging to maintain control of your vehicle, so giving yourself plenty of space to maneuver is important. In general, it is recommended to maintain a following distance of at least three seconds behind the vehicle in front of you. This will give you enough time to react if the other driver loses control on the ice.

8. Check Your Tread

Are your tires ready for winter? Deep treads and groove patterns enhance the performance — and improve the safety — of your car in winter conditions.

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