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Black ice: The hidden winter driving danger

Black ice

Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring this past Groundhog Day. Until the winter season comes to a close, we can still expect slippery road conditions throughout West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. There is no greater winter driving risk than black ice.

Snow, sleet, and freezing rain can easily be anticipated by drivers who stay up to date with the weather. Black ice, on the other hand, is unpredictable. It's nearly impossible to spot in many cases, especially at night.

Moreover, drivers may still have some traction during snow or sleet conditions, as the tires are able to grip the road. Drivers have no traction on black ice.

The temperatures have fluctuated from mild to below freezing during the 2019/2020 winter season. This is one of the leading causes of black ice. Snow and ice melt when daytime temperatures reach 33 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Temperatures dip below freezing at night and during the early morning hours. This is when black ice forms on the road. Black ice can also form from air moisture from fog and dew.

Where does black ice usually form?

According to ABC News, black ice is completely clear and is often mistaken for a wet roadway surface. While black ice can form on any stretch of roadway, it's more prevalent in these areas:

  • Shaded areas: Forms in densely wooded areas, underpasses, and other areas that don't receive adequate sunlight.
  • Bridges and overpasses: Can develop in open areas due to increased wind. The cold air flows underneath the road surface and lowers the surface temperature.

What are the dangers of driving on black ice?

According to the Weather Channel, a car traveling at 50 mph would take at least 1,000 ft to come to a complete stop when the roads freeze. Their video uses a 3D model of an SUV driving on an icy roadway. The SUV swerves and nearly loses control before coming to a complete stop.


Staying safe when the roadways freeze

AAA offers some tips for staying safe during slippery road conditions. These include:

  • Maintain a safe following distance.
  • Avoid using cruise control.
  • Immediately reduce your speed when you see brake lights ahead.
  • Never slam on your brakes.
  • If your car starts to slide, be sure to steer in the direction you want your car to go.

You should also never trust the temperature reading on your car's dashboard. According to Accuweather, the sensors that determine the temperature can pick up heat from the engine. Simply being in dense city traffic or letting your car sit idle for too long can yield a false high temperature reading. Accuweather also suggests looking out for dark, glossy spots in the road, even when the pavement is dry.

We can't always blame winter weather conditions for the crashes that occur this time of year, however. Crashes can be prevented when drivers reduce their speed, stay attentive, and show consideration for others on the road.

If you or a loved one was hurt in a crash this winter, the car accident attorneys at Recht Law Offices can help you recover all damages you're entitled to. Our legal team serves clients in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Contact us online today to schedule your free case evaluation.

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