Protecting Yourself From Black Ice Accidents

Posted on November 7, 2022

Inclement weather conditions are a major contributing factor to highway accidents. With more than 70% of roads in the United States located in regions with annual snowfall, over 1,300 fatalities occur annually due to accidents caused by snow, slush, and ice. One of the most deadly factors in weather-related accidents in Utah and other snowy regions is black ice. Black ice poses a great danger because it’s smooth, slippery, and nearly invisible, often catching unwary drivers by surprise.

It’s important to know what to do should you suddenly encounter an unexpected expanse of black ice in order to protect yourself and your loved ones by minimizing the risk of a deadly crash.

What is Black Ice?

Black ice isn’t actually black, but instead takes on the dark color of the road surface below it. Unlike white or foggy-colored ice, black ice is a thin, transparent coat of ice that’s invisible to drivers and pedestrians who see only the black road or asphalt below. It’s especially insidious at night when it’s almost impossible to detect patches of black ice ahead on the roadway. Black ice forms when the temperature drops at night and causes rain, snow, or sleet to freeze on the roads and sidewalks. Then the temperature rises during the day just enough to melt the ice into a thin, wet coating. When the temperature drops again, the thin layer quickly freezes without the tiny air bubbles that add a white color to most forms of ice, and instead, it freezes into a smooth slick of invisible but deadly black ice.

Black ice is a danger for drivers in the fall, winter, and early spring. In some cases, it doesn’t even have to be a snowy day. Black ice sometimes forms just from dewfall that turns into ice from a sudden drop in temperature.

How to Minimize the Risk of Black Ice Accidents

While it’s impossible to completely avoid all risks of an accident caused by invisible black ice, you can protect yourself and minimize the risk of an encounter with black ice becoming deadly. Some important tips for driving in wintery weather when black ice is a risk include:

  • Avoid driving in the early mornings and late in the evening when black ice is most common
  • Always put snow tires on your vehicle in the winter
  • Know where you’re most likely to encounter black ice, such as shaded parts of roadways with limited sun exposure and in low-traffic areas as well as on bridges and below overpasses
  • Be alert. If you see drivers ahead of you swerving, slow down and be prepared for black ice ahead
  • If you notice the black road ahead turns from a matte appearance to shiny or glossy, this is one way that you can see “invisible black ice.”

The best way to minimize the risk of an accident caused by black ice is to know when and where to expect it so you can avoid it.

What to Do During an Encounter With Black Ice

Hitting a patch of black ice while you’re driving is a frightening experience. Tire treads can’t grip slippery ice and you suddenly have no control over your moving vehicle. But you can still minimize the chance of the encounter turning deadly by taking the following steps:

  • Immediately remove your foot from the accelerator to slow down without breaking
  • Shift into a lower gear
  • Keep your steering wheel straight or in its current position to minimize movement unless your car skids or slides
  • If your car skids, steer gently into the direction of the skid rather than following the natural instinct to turn the wheel in the opposite direction which could cause worse skidding, sliding, and even flipping if you’re moving at high speed
  • After you move past the patch of ice, steer toward an area of greater traction 
  • If you find yourself sliding off the road, steer toward an area that would cause the least amount of damage such as a snow bank, an empty yard, or a field
  • Once you come to a stop, turn on your hazard lights and call for help or try to steer back onto the road in an area of better traction if your car isn’t damaged

Remember, Utah is a no-fault state, and only if your injuries qualify under certain thresholds and your accident was caused by another driver as well as the icy conditions can you file a claim beyond your claim to your own insurance provider. A Salt Lake City personal injury lawyer can answer legal questions related to your black ice accident.