Weather reports are predicting an imminent influx of snow, sleet, hail and ice across the UK. With that the driving conditions on the roads are likely to be affected. One danger to be very aware of when temperatures reach sub zero is black ice.
What Is Black Ice?
Whether rain falls as sleet or freezing rain, depends heavily on the temperature of the air just above ground level. If the temperature is already around zero degrees or just above, there is no heat in the air to stop the rain from freezing on its way down. This is hailstone; while hail can stick and form ice on the road, it often retains its colour and becomes visible ice.
Black ice is rainfall that passes through a layer of warm air on its way to the ground. The warm air prevents the water from freezing so it remains a liquid, only freezing on impact.
As the rain is still a liquid when it hits the floor it disperses over a larger surface area while freezing. This area usually remains clear, containing no air bubbles, blending into the road surface, acting as an extra layer sitting on top. The reason for it being labelled “black ice” is due to the ice camouflaging itself on the road surface by remaining clear.
What’s The Danger?
Sliding on ice of any kind is a potential danger to all road users and their surroundings. The added danger of not knowing whether or not the road surface is driveable can be the cause of many multi car pile ups, causing road closures and slow moving traffic.
Good advice when driving on ice is to drive slowly to avoid losing grip. The way in which black ice freezes as a flat sheet over the road has the potential to turn tarmac into a sheet as though the driver has their vehicle on glass. Even winter tyres can struggle to gain grip on these kinds of surfaces..
Driving Safely With Black Ice
Black ice can’t always be accounted for on your journey given the difficulty of spotting it. Local weather reports should inform you of icy roads and hopefully your local council will have taken action, gritting the vast majority of roads at night.
As much as this usually resolves many problems driving on ice, there is always the chance that part of your route has been missed. When ice has set overnight, always assume you will encounter some. It’s much easier to be safe when it comes to road safety in the winter.
If you fall foul of black ice, the chances are you may experience unwanted loss of traction and potentially spin out of control. There are, however, a few safe driving tips to employ, should you find yourself on ice and needing to stay calm and in control at the wheel.
The slower, the better
Icy weather is definitely a period in which driving slowly must be the priority. Other road users will be aware of ice on the road and are likely to keep a safe distance, also watching their speed. Do not be afraid to take it steady and travel at 10mph if necessary or even less should the road surface prove particularly tricky ahead.
Consistent speed can help avoid unwanted slipping and grip issues on any area of road. The power being output into the wheels can keep a car steady, whereas accelerating on ice of any kind can generate wheel spin, car spins and more of an increase in speed over a slippery surface than you would want. This will affect overall control. Keeping a consistent speed on a down slope may be difficult , but a gentle foot on the brakes can help avoid skidding and spinning out.
Avoid wheel locking
Should your car begin to slide and veer off course, you may need to take the brave step of releasing the brake pedal to regain control. Locking out the front wheels can cause the car to continue going straight, which, if already misaligned, could cause you to veer off the road. Likewise, locking out the back wheels with the handbrake can cause the car to spin out and become a hazard.
What if another driver hits me?
If you happen to suffer an incident in the icy conditions and fall victim to an accident at the hands of somebody else, then you do have options to help recover any damages caused. Road traffic accidents in the winter on ice can escalate from what would be very minor bumps and scrapes, into serious incidents because of the lack of control.
Collisions in the winter months can not only cause excess, unnecessary damage but the cost of the damage both financially and physically can wreak havoc on carefully laid plans during the holiday season.
If you do happen to suffer in an incident, Scott Rees & Co is available to help deal with road traffic accident on icy roads. We are available every weekday from 9am to 7pm via phone on 01695 722 222, or by filling in our contact form here on our website.