As many Oklahomans discovered today, black ice is dangerous. It can turn what normally would be a smooth ride into a treacherous journey. And the temperature doesn’t even have to be at freezing or below for it to happen.
It’s one thing to see a shiny roadway and know there’s a good possibility of ice. It’s another to see what appears to be a normal, or possibly wet road and not realize that is has black ice until you’re upon it.
Simply put, black ice is a thin layer of ice that forms on roadways and is basically invisible because it takes on the color of the underlying pavement, which is usually black on an asphalt surface. It can form from freezing drizzle, wind-blown snow or freezing condensation. The ice can form even when the temperature is a few degrees above freezing.
So how do you know it’s there? If the roadway appears darker, duller in color, it’s very likely there is black ice present. The obvious sign, of course, is when your tires lose their grip and you slide. You don’t have to be speeding to lose control.
There are some things you can/should do to reduce the possibility of having a problem on black ice:
* First, make sure your seat belt is fastened.
* Drive with your headlights on low beam, even if it’s daytime. This makes your vehicle more visible to those around you.
* Keep a safe distance between your vehicle and those ahead of you.
* Keep your speed down.
* If you come upon a slick spot, take your foot off the gas and don’t slam the brakes. Tap them lightly.
* If you begin to slide, turn the steering wheel the direction you are sliding.
Driving experts also point to these reminders:
* Don’t think you are invincible just because you drive something like a pickup or sport utility vehicle.
*A 4-wheel drive vehicle is great for driving in heavy snow, but you’re on your own on black ice. In fact, the experts say, 4-wheel drive vehicles have no advantage over regular cars when it comes to driving on black ice.
* Make sure your tires have good tread. Worn tires make it much more difficult to drive on black ice. You want plenty of traction between your tires and the road surface.
* Black ice is most commonly found on roads near water (such as lake and rivers), in tunnels and in shady, or rural areas. Bridges and overpasses are also common spots for black ice to form. You probably have seen a sign “Bridge ices before roadway.” That’s because roadways on bridges and overpasses freeze more quickly. Even if you have been cruising down the highway with no problem, an overpass or bridge can be unexpectedly icy.
* And remember that if you have an idea that there may be black ice ahead, downshift to a lower gear before you come to it. The lower gear will force you to drive more slowly and give you better control of your car.
For more information about driving in winter or weather conditions, go to KNOWIT.NEWSOK.COM/SEVERE-WEATHER-OKLAHOMA and check out the resources.