ICE = DANGER
Here in Maine, black ice frequently forms in the late winter and early
spring. Black ice is almost invisible to the naked eye and is frequently
mistaken for a wet or newly paved road. Black ice can form even when
it's not raining or snowing. Melting snow that runs across the road
or condensation from overnight dew can freeze forming a thin layer of
ice that creates one of the slickest road conditions known to man.
It is because black ice can form so quickly and is so camouflaged on
the road that Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials
call it one of the deadliest of all winter
Here's what to watch out for:
- Pavement that looks dark, wet or like new asphalt.
- Low-lying areas that may have standing water or run off from nearby
melting snow banks or puddles.
- Bridges and Underpasses.
- Any road areas which are shaded from the sun.
- Any time the temperature is below 40 degrees F.
- Vehicles that have slid off the road under any of the above conditions.
Here are some things you can do:
- First of all understand that not all cars respond the same to icy,
slippery roads. For that reason, knowing how to handle your vehicle
and how it responds in various weather conditions is important. AAA
recommends that motorists practice slow-speed maneuvers on an empty
snow or ice covered parking lot. You should also look through your
owner's manual and familiarize yourself with your vehicle's braking
system and other features.
- Wear safety belts every time you get into a vehicle. Be sure all
children and passengers are secured in proper restraints, too.
- SLOW DOWN! - posted speed limits are for ideal travel conditions.
Driving at reduced speeds is the best precautionary measure against
any misfortune while driving on slippery roads. Allow more time to
travel. Resist the temptation to drive faster. Allow extra time not
only for the reduced speeds, but for potential problems on the road.
- When the roads are wet or look wet, watch the vehicle in front of
you. If it is not leaving tracks or its wheels are not "throwing"
water, it is probably black ice and not just wet
- Look well ahead to compensate for the greater distances required
when driving on slippery surfaces, focus your attention as far ahead
as possible-at least 20 to 30 seconds.
- Drive with your head lights on. This will turn on your tail lights
and allow others to see you almost twice as far away. Being visible
will give others time to avoid hitting you.
- Be especially leery when driving your car into shaded areas and
slow your vehicle down when you encounter such areas.
- Avoid driving while fatigued.
- Maintain more space. Increase your margin of safety. Don't tailgate!
Maintain a minimum of 8 to 10 seconds in following distance.
- Anticipate problems. On slick surfaces, any abrupt maneuver will
increase the probability of losing vehicle control. Skids can best
be avoided by anticipating lane changes, turns and curves, slowing
down in advance, and by making smooth, precise movements of the steering
- Use chains in deep snow and on icy surfaces. Check state and local
laws before installing chains, and drive at slower speeds to avoid
damage to the tires and vehicle.
- Do not use cruise control. Winter driving requires you to be in
- Steer with smooth and precise movements. Changing lanes too quickly
and jerky steering while braking or accelerating can cause skidding.
Here are some braking tips should you find yourself on black ice:
1) Braking without anti-lock brakes: Use the heel-and-toe method. Keep
your heel on the floor and use your toes to press the brake pedal firmly
just short of locking up the wheels. If the wheels lock, release the
pressure on the pedal, and press again in the same way. Repeat this
until you come to a full stop.
2) Braking with anti-lock brakes: Apply the brakes. Do not remove your
foot from the brake pedal or pump the brakes. The ABS should keep the
brakes from locking while allowing you to steer as you continue to slow
the vehicle down.
In both cases, if your vehicle begins to skid, remember to steer in
the direction of the skid. You may also find it advantageous to put
your transmission in neutral while trying to stop on black ice.
Black ice is indeed a very serious hazard that you should be constantly
aware of this time of year. Watch out for it and be cautious.