Mother Nature has thrown a variety of different winter conditions at us this year, including warm/cold temperatures, snow, rain, and wintery mix. She's done a good job of mixing it up. Just when we think we're in for the deep freeze, a few days go by and the temperatures go back above freezing.
The problem with temps that hover around the freezing mark is that it creates fog, freezing fog, and black ice which are a few of the dangers faced by motorists.
Black ice is a thin sheet of ice commonly found on bridges, overpasses, and shaded roadways. It forms when the temperature hovers around 32 degrees Fahrenheit and we get rain, freezing rain, or sleet. When the precipitation hits the roadway that's colder than 32 degrees, it causes ice to form, creating hazardous driving conditions.
Because black ice is thin and transparent, it's very difficult to see when driving. If you're out on the roadways during a wintery mix, here are some tips to keep you safe.
- Pay attention to your local weather forecast. If you're driving in an area where the temperature is hovering around freezing and precipitation is expected, be on the lookout for icy conditions and slow down. Remember to be especially cautious on bridges and overpasses. Lastly, pay attention to the temperature display in your car; it's another way to figure out what Mother Nature is doing.
- Watch for tire spray. Because I'm a cautious driver, other cars will frequently pass me when driving conditions are poor. No, I'm not your typical SUV motorist. When the temperature is hovering around freezing and another vehicle is passing me, I look at the passing motorist's tires. If you see a lot of water spraying off the tires, the road surface is still wet. If you don't see water spray, the precipitation could be freezing on the roadway.
- Be on the lookout. Since black ice is transparent and thin, it can be very difficult to see. If black ice is present, however, the roadway may be darker is some spots and lighter in others. Again, use caution on bridges and overpasses even if the roadway looks clear.
- Stay in your happy place. Find a driving lane where you're comfortable and stay there. In poor weather, there's no need to weave in and out of traffic. This behavior increases your chances of hitting a patch of ice and putting you and others in significant danger.
- Straight as an arrow. When driving, keep your steering wheel as straight as possible. If you need to turn your wheel, make very small inputs; don’t do anything drastic.
- Both feet out. Braking and accelerating in icy conditions can cause you to lose control very quickly. If you realize you're driving too fast for conditions, lift off the accelerator and let your car slow down naturally; don’t apply the brakes.
- You aren't invincible. Four-wheel drive vehicles are nice to have if you live in a snowy climate. They allow you to drive through thick snow and provide better traction in certain conditions. When it comes to ice, however, four-wheel drive doesn't provide any stopping advantages over a regular vehicle. You need to respect the poor weather conditions and drive sensibly.
- Only use cruise control on dry pavement.
For an in-depth video on how black ice forms and how to handle it when driving, check out the video below.
Do you have any tips or information you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them; please share them in the box below.