Safety Tips Driving safety Holiday safety Seasonal safety: Winter Weather

Drive safely on black ice

Photo: Willowpix/iStockphoto

On a list of winter driving hazards, black ice ranks high. A clear glaze that forms on surfaces because of a light freezing rain or because of melting and refreezing of snow or ice, black ice is especially dangerous because it looks like regular black pavement to drivers, the U.S. Forest Service says.

Although it can form on any road and “sneak up on you,” the National Weather Service says black ice frequently is found on roads that lack exposure to sunlight or are lightly traveled. Bridges, overpasses and the roads underneath overpasses are other common spots for black ice to develop.

If you drive over black ice, “the general rule is to do as little as possible and allow the car to pass over the ice,” USFS advises. “Black ice is often (although not always) patchy, so hopefully your tires will soon find traction.”

More tips:

  • Don’t slam on the brakes (this will likely cause your vehicle to skid) and keep the steering wheel straight. However, “If you feel the back end of your car sliding left or right, make a very gentle turn of the steering wheel in the same direction,” USFS says. “If you try to struggle against it by steering in the opposite direction, you risk skidding or spinning out.”
  • If your vehicle has an anti-lock braking system, put your foot on the brake, apply steady pressure and allow the car to pump the brakes as you skid. No ABS? Pump the brakes gently as you skid. Steer the car in the direction you want it to go.
  • Slow down and shift into a lower gear if you can. This gives you more control of your vehicle.
  • If your vehicle begins to drift off the road, USFS says to try to steer into objects that will cause the minimum amount of damage to your vehicle. “Ideally, steer into an empty field, a yard or a fluffy snowbank.”

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