Vehicles carefully driving on black ice.

What is black ice? Watch for this winter road hazard

Black ice can be hard to spot on a wintry road. State Farm® offers these tips for black ice safety.

Thousands of injuries and fatalities occur every year from accidents on snowy or icy roads, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Many drivers are unaware of a common culprit in many of these crashes — black ice. So, what is black ice? It is a transparent glaze that forms without bubbles, allowing it to easily blend into the surface of the roads.

Black ice is most likely to form when there is a sudden temperature drop, such as in the early morning and evening hours. Common problem areas include bridges, overpasses and shaded areas of the road. These areas have much colder surfaces that rapidly freeze when air moisture makes contact — especially if they're near lakes or rivers.

How to spot black ice

When weather conditions are present, be on high alert. Black ice looks similar to wet blacktop. Other indicators include:

Ways to react when you encounter black ice

If you're caught driving on black ice, try to stay calm and consider these tips to help maneuver past the problem area:

  • Ease up on the gas pedal - Avoid making sudden moves or turning the wheel. Lift your foot off the accelerator and glide across the ice in a straight line until you find traction.
  • Shift to a lower gear - If possible, slowly shift to a lower gear for more control on the ice.
  • Brake wisely - If you begin to skid, consider firmly pressing on your brakes to activate the anti-lock brake system (ABS). Or, if you don't have ABS, you may want to pump the brakes gently.
  • Avoid spinout - Attempt to keep the steering wheel straight. However, if your front end is sliding, steer in the opposite direction of the skid; if the back end is sliding, steer in the same direction.
  • Focus on the direction you want to go - If you look where you think you might crash, then you might inadvertently veer the car in that direction.

Winter driving tips to consider

These additional tips may help prepare you and your vehicle for driving on black ice or unexpected icy conditions:

  • Winter tires - Try switching out your standard tires to winter tires once the temperatures start to drop. If your vehicle is regularly exposed to driving in snowy and icy conditions, the grip and handling provided by these weather-specific tires might be better than all-season tires.
  • Slow down - When conditions exist for an increased possibility of black ice, exhibit caution by driving slower than the posted speed limit and extending your braking distance. This could give you more time to react calmly if you're caught on black ice.
  • Be in control - Avoid using cruise control on wet or wintry road conditions as it may slow down your reaction time.

Prepare for your next winter adventure with more winter road trip survival skills from State Farm.

The information in this article was obtained from various sources not associated with State Farm® (including State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and its subsidiaries and affiliates). While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. State Farm is not responsible for, and does not endorse or approve, either implicitly or explicitly, the content of any third party sites that might be hyperlinked from this page. The information is not intended to replace manuals, instructions or information provided by a manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional, or to affect coverage under any applicable insurance policy. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. State Farm makes no guarantees of results from use of this information.

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