Black ice is considered to be one of the most dangerous threats a driver can face during winter. Called “black” because of how it blends perfectly into the road, it is often only discovered when it is too late for the driver.
When the temperature at the surface of the road is 32 degrees Fahrenheit or below and it begins raining, black ice could potentially form. The ground temperature causes the rain to freeze upon impact, creating a sheet of ice.
Another way black ice can form is when sleet, snow or water refreezes on the surface of the road. This is very common due to melted ice meeting cooler temperatures at night.
In that regard, the most common time for black ice to form is between sunset and sunrise, when temperatures are at their lowest.
Shady areas, like roads that are tree-covered or parts of driveways that remain in shade are very likely places for black ice to form.
Black ice is very difficult to spot because of how well it blends in to the road around it. Unfortunately, there are no tricks to actually seeing black ice before hitting it. The best way to avoid black ice is to understand how and where it forms, and stay informed of local driving conditions.
You can also take a look at the pavement before getting in your car to drive. If the pavement appears to have dark or glossy spots, then there may also be ice on the roads.
Be most wary of bridges, shaded areas and driving after sunset.
If you hit a patch of black ice while driving, the best thing you can do is try to stay calm and let the vehicle pass over it. When driving through snow, your tires retain some traction – not so with ice.
Many areas salt their roads to try to neutralize black ice, and generally it’s an effective method. However, if temperatures are at or below 15 degrees, salting becomes much less effective.