Tips for driving in Black Ice conditions

A few tips for preventing and dealing with black ice on the roads
The last few days have been treacherous at best. We have seen it, we have probably experienced it. Black ice is everywhere and it’s dangerous out there. If we are lucky we have seen the last of it but in case we haven’t here are a few tips for getting through it as safely as possible.

Identifying black ice

In case you don’t already know, black ice occurs when a small sheet of water freezes over the road and creates a smooth layer over it, making it hard for tyres to grip the road. Black ice forms without creating bubbles which allows it to blend in with any surface it forms over. Black ice is incredibly hard to detect and it wouldn’t be recommended to rely solely on being able to see it, but if it can help you prepare better for the encounter then why not. While black ice is transparent, in the right light conditions it can be seen if you are looking for it. Because it forms in a very smooth and glossy sheet the glossy shine is your indication that your about to drive onto black ice. 

Dealing with an encounter

Sometimes its unavoidable, you’re bound to encounter black ice at some stage but hopefully it won’t be in a situation that could be life threatening. When dealing with an encounter there are a couple of things to do that will help you stay safe.

Don’t Panic

Firstly DON’T panic and keep calm, I can’t stress this enough keeping calm will help you deal with the situation a lot better.  Your first reaction is to slam on the brakes to stop moving, DON’T do that, it will make you go from bad to worse. Slamming on the breaks will cause you to slide in an uncontrollable manner and you could end up on your roof. The best way to get though it is to just do as little as possible till you get over the ice.

Slow down

Take your foot off the accelerator but don’t touch the brakes. Slowing down will help you control the car and control is everything in this situation. The only way to get through it is to ride the ice in the right direction till it stops. Usually the Black ice doesn’t last much longer than 20 feet.

Steering

When you encounter the black ice and start sliding, don’t turn the steering wheel too much ideally don’t turn it at all, lock the wheel and keep straight in the direction you’re going. If you find yourself turning in a slide turn your wheel slightly to go with it. Remember because of the ice a little turn of the wheel will make your car turn a lot, so use caution if you need to turn it. If you try turning the wheel against the slide could risk skidding or spinning out.

Hills

We all have to deal with hills in Cork, Icy hills are a big obstacle that sometimes we can’t just go around. The best way to deal with this is to build up a little bit of speed coming up to the hill then start to slow down once you start ascending, go into a lower gear and keep your speed constant going up, stopping will cause the situation to become a lot more difficult. Ideally you want to be in at least 2nd gear with low revs, avoid going into 1st gear if possible.

Goes bad to worse

If it all goes wrong and the car starts to skid, there are still things you can do to help the situation as best as possible. Black ice is often (but not always) patchy so hopefully your tyres will grab some traction. In a bad skid you will have to use some braking, but keep it to a minimal. If you have Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) just put your foot firmly on the break and the car will pump the breaks for you as you skid. If you don’t have ABS pump the breaks gently as you skid.

Prevent Black Ice encounters

The best way to prevent black ice encounters is to just stay off the roads and wait for it to thaw out, but of course often that’s just not possible so here are some tips for preventing any black ice encounters.

  • Travel Slowly. Staying slow will help you control the car in the event of a skid, it will also minimise the likely hood of a bad slide as the car won’t be travelling fast enough to make the situation dangerous.
  • Keep your distance from the car in front of you. Not only will it stop you from going into the back of the car or him/her sliding back into you but it could help you identify black ice in front so you can prepare.
  • Turn on your headlights. It can help you detect Black Ice from the sheen of the lights.
  • Check your tyres. If your tyres are going bald then you won’t have much traction from them which makes it dangerous in any condition. Bald tyres on Black Ice makes your skids a lot more dangerous and more frequent.