Safer driving when black ice threatens

Posted on December 30th, 2014 by GEM Motoring Assist

Road safety and breakdown organisation GEM Motoring Assist is encouraging motorists to ensure they – and their vehicles – are ready for the potential challenges of driving in winter.

In this fourth of four advice notices, GEM chief executive David Williams MBE answers questions on driving safely when black ice may be a risk:

Why is it called ‘black’ ice?

Largely because it blends in very well (too well, in fact) with the road environment. Black ice is actually clear and colourless but it is invisible above the dark tarmac of the road.

How will I know if I’m driving on black ice?

Your steering will feel light, you won’t see tyre tracks on the road ahead, and there will be next to no noise from your tyres.

If I can’t see it, how can I look out for black ice?

Pay attention to your car thermometer. Black ice forms when the road surface temperature falls to 0 degrees Celsius or below. But road surface temperature is usually three to four degrees lower than air temperature. That’s why you may get an audible cold weather warning when your car thermometer shows 3 or 4 degrees.

When and in what locations is black ice most likely to form?

The most likely times for the forming of black ice are around dawn and in the late evening, when temperatures are usually at their lowest. The most common locations for black ice are shaded or tree-covered parts of roads, due to the lack of sunlight. Bridges freeze quickly so be particularly careful.

What should I do if I realise I’m on black ice?

Stay calm and let your car pass over the back ice. Gently lift your foot off the accelerator. Don’t hit the brakes and be very gentle with your steering. If you feel the car is starting to slide, don’t attempt to overcorrect. Remember that on ice your car will have no traction.