Black ice: The near-invisible roadway killer

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Michelle Humann
  • 341st Missile Wing Ground Safety
Black Ice - it's not the name of the latest rap group. What it really is, is an age-old winter phenomenon that has sent many drivers skidding and sliding down what looked like a dry road.

Black ice can appear to be a spot of moisture on a road, or may have a slight glisten on black asphalt. Do not be mistaken; this thin ice is very slick, and can send a car skiding rapidly out of control. Drive carefully on roads where snow banks have melted and exercise caution when driving under bridges and overpasses. If your car starts to skid, do not slam on the brakes unless the vehicle is equipped with an anti-lock braking system.

What can a person do to prepare for black ice?

Look for signs of ice other than on the roadway. That means looking for ice on windshield wipers or side view mirrors, on road signs, trees or fences along the highway. If ice is forming on any of those things, it's possible it may be on the road as well.

In other cases there will be ice in shaded areas, such as cuts through hills and along banks, before there will be ice on the open roads. If you suspect there could be black ice on the pavement, you may want to test for it by applying the brakes lightly to see if there's any change in the feel of the road.

Another good tip for winter driving is to listen to the radio for reports on the temperature outside. When the roads have been wet and the temperature drops below freezing, ice can form quickly. If you must drive frequently in winter weather, it is a good idea to install an outdoor thermometer in the car, allowing you to monitor the outside temperature.

This is also the type of weather when it is especially important to watch for those signs that remind drivers that bridges freeze before roads. These signs tell you there is a bridge ahead and give you time to slow down so you have better control just in case there is ice on the bridge pavement.

If you live in an area where frost occurs, black ice is always a possibility. Use extreme caution when driving on cold mornings where there is evidence of frozen moisture on the roadway.