Winter and Black Ice: 3 Ways to Reduce the Risk of Accidents

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ATV on a snow terrain

For some, especially those living in snowy Utah, winter and the holidays may be more tragic than merry. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), over 20% of weather-related vehicle accidents occur during the last season of the year.

That at least 70% of roads are in snowy regions is a factor, but so does the weather condition. FHWA further revealed that 15% of crashes happened during sleet and snowfall. Icy pavements, particularly black ice, are responsible for not fewer than 115,000 injuries and over a thousand deaths each year.

What makes black ice dangerous? What are the different strategies to reduce the risk of an accident when faced with this problem?

The Danger of Black Ice

To understand the harm caused by black ice, it’s best to begin with its definition: black ice? Also known as clear ice, it is a thin layer of snow melt-off that sticks to the surface.

Science teaches us that snow is actually water or precipitation that forms into ice crystals due to extremely low temperatures in the atmosphere and minimal moisture present. They fall to earth in packs.

However, as the temperature in the ground rises, snow begins to melt, but the chilly air can harden it quickly. Thus, black ice is formed.

Black ice is dangerous for many reasons:

  • Unlike snow, black ice doesn’t provide any traction on a vehicle. Once it passes the affected road, the risk of skidding and losing control rises significantly.
  • Black ice is often invisible to the eye because it blends well to the shade or color of the surface. One of the telltale signs is the road appears smoother or glossier than the others. But this may demand a keen eye, which many do not have.
  • Black ice can build up quickly. As long as there’s snowfall, clear ice can form.
  • It’s not only snow that falls directly into the ground that can cause black ice. So do water runoffs from roofs or even vehicles. The moment they freeze because of cold temperature, they can become clear ice.
  • Black ice can also melt, which doesn’t improve the road condition. It can remain wet and slippery. In fact, it is difficult to walk in this scenario, so just imagine how dangerous it is to drive through it.
  • The extent of accident-related injuries caused by black ice can be severe, leading to permanent disability or even death.

road covered in snow

How to Manage Black Ice

If many things can cause black ice and it is not that visible to the naked eye, how can drivers protect themselves from it? How can they reduce their risks of meeting an accident?

1. Make It a Community Effort

Retailers in Utah, for example, may have to contact a specialist in asphalt paving for either maintenance or repair (or both).

Black ice can potentially damage roads or parking lots, making driving conditions even worse. These experts are also more familiar with clear ice and usually have the tools to get rid of it as soon as possible.

Communities can also invest in salt trucks or work closely with their counties or cities. They can schedule black ice removal. Meanwhile, homeowners can consider using traditional solutions, such as salt, to clear pavements with black ice.

2. Anticipate Black Ice

One of the common mistakes drivers make is to believe that sunny days equal to no black ice. As the saying goes, a person should always hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

A driver must always expect to encounter black ice during winter, especially if they live or travel snowy areas like Utah. With this mindset, they can already train themselves to:

  • Spot the possible presence of black ice
  • Drive slow in areas that have recently experienced significant snowfall
  • Focus and be more in control when behind the wheel (that means no distracted driving)
  • Learn the different techniques on how to drive on black ice
  • Keep far distance from other vehicles

3. Improve Drainage

No one can control the snowfall, but they can prevent the buildup of snow melts on the road by improving their drainage system. This might not eliminate the chances of having black ice, but it can help lessen the possibility.

Besides adding more drainage systems, these areas must be maintained properly. Nothing should block the drains.

Contrary to what most people think, winter and the holidays may also bring bad news. This may be especially true among drivers living and traversing the snowy regions.

After all, the danger of black ice exists. However, while nothing can stop them from forming, the three ideas above may reduce the risk of encountering one or meeting an accident. They can help save lives and property.


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