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How Do You Tell if There’s Black Ice on the Road?

Diving in winter weather can be dangerous. Even experienced Wisconsin drivers can lose control of their vehicles in treacherous conditions. Winter is a hazardous time to drive for many reasons, from the sudden, unpredictable snowstorms and unplowed streets to icy conditions and low visibility.

One of the most dangerous obstacles on the road in the winter is black ice. Icy conditions, like black ice, accounted for 13% of all weather-related vehicle accidents nationwide between 2007 and 2016. These crashes resulted in 156,164 crashes, causing 41,860 injuries and 521 fatalities.

Learning to spot and drive safely over black ice can keep you and other drivers safe in the winter. Call the Appleton car accident attorneys at Brian Hodgkiss Injury Lawyers if you suffer injuries in a car accident this winter.

What Is Black Ice?

Black ice, also known as clear ice, is a thin, transparent coat of ice that forms on surfaces such as roads, sidewalks, fields, and mountains and is one of the leading causes of accidents during the winter. It’s called black ice as the black pavement is visible under the glaze, often appearing wet instead of frozen.

Black ice commonly forms in the early morning, especially after freezing rain or snowmelt the day before. The transition between dry, wet, and frozen can happen quickly and unpredictably on roads, making the phenomenon of black ice hard to predict.

This unpredictable nature has led about 76% of drivers to report that they have encountered black ice at least once while driving in the winter. Systematic studies in Korea have found that black ice contributes to a 66.2% higher casualty rate in crashes. 

Conditions that Create Black Ice

Black ice is formed when a thin layer of water, usually caused by rain, sleet, or melting snow, freezes at a temperature of 32℉ (0℃).  Black ice can form even if the ambient air temperature is above freezing, particularly after a long cold spell when the road’s surface remains below freezing despite warmer weather. Below 18℉, black ice can form from supercooled fog or condensation from car motor exhaust. At temperatures approaching 0℉, black ice can reduce braking distances up to 15-50%.

Black ice is particularly slippery due to its molecular makeup. Generally, ice is made of four tightly bonded water molecules. Black ice has an additional non-frozen, non-bonded water molecule on top. This loose molecule has nothing to hold it in place, rendering it highly slippery to the touch.

How To Tell if There’s Black Ice on the Road

Black ice can appear almost anywhere on the road when the temperatures drop below freezing. Certain road areas, such as bridges and overpasses, are likelier to have black ice. This is because the air circulates below the roadway, cooling the pavement below the ambient air temperature.

Areas of the road that do not receive direct sunlight, such as tree-lined roads or tunnels, can also be hotspots for black ice. Additional black ice areas include locations without proper drainage, where water tends to pool, and roads with little traffic. Negligent property owners can also contribute to black ice when they fail to salt or plow surfaces properly or allow water to pool in the winter.

You can spot black ice by keeping the following in mind:

  • It is nearly impossible to see black ice at night or in rainy or snowy conditions. Even under the best circumstances, it can be difficult to spot black ice; if the temperature is below freezing, assume black ice is on the roads and drive carefully.

When you encounter black ice, take the following steps to prevent an accident:

  • Drive slowly and minimize distractions when driving.
  • Avoid driving on overpasses or bridges if possible.
  • Don’t slam on your brakes; instead, keep your hands on the wheel and hold it as steady as possible.
  • Maintain your speed rather than accelerating or decelerating if you hit a patch of black ice.
  • If your car shifts direction on black ice, you can make minor steering adjustments but avoid jerky or extreme motions, which can cause you to spin out.

How a Car Accident Attorney Can Help

Many accidents related to black ice are not the driver’s fault. If you have been in an accident due to black ice, a car accident attorney at Brian Hodgkiss Injury Lawyers can help.

We are experienced in handling cases resulting from winter auto accidents and can help you find definitive and substantial proof that the accident was not your fault. We will help you file a personal injury claim and gather evidence to show that black ice caused your accident and your actions weren’t negligent.

For example, we can interview witnesses who saw you driving slowly and carefully, then spinning out of control into another car when you hit an invisible patch of black ice.

Schedule a Free Case Review Today

Contact Appleton car crash attorneys at Brian Hodgkiss Injury Lawyers if you have been in a winter-weather-related car accident. We will use our experience to help you file your accident injury claim. We can discuss your legal options regarding the crash and help you get the compensation you deserve.

We have worked hard to win millions of dollars for victims who deserve a fair settlement and only take payment if we win you compensation.

Contact us through our online form or call 24/7 to schedule a free case review.

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