Drive safely, watch out for black ice

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Joe Winfield
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Safety Office
Driving on winter roads can be very dangerous, especially if you don't know how to identify black ice.

Black ice looks just like water sitting on a road, but your car's tires react much differently to it than crossing a puddle. Below are five ways to identify the possibility of black ice.

Outside temperature is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit
The chance of black ice forming on the road is much greater if it's below freezing outside. Ice may still remain on the road in some situations even if the temperature rises above freezing.

There is no windshield spray from the road
If the car in front of you passes what looks like a "puddle," but you don't receive any water spray on your windshield, that car probably just passed over a patch of black ice. Water spray on your windshield signals to you that it was just water, but drivers should still drive cautiously as there are sections of the same road where black ice may be lurking.

It's dawn or dusk
The moments before dawn and after dusk are the most probable times for black ice to form because outside temperatures fluctuate more during these periods, and freezing roads are always a possibility as the temperature is 32 degrees or less during these times. This means that rush hours can be more dangerous than normal during the winter.

Bridges, overpasses and tunnels
Expect black ice if you're driving on bridges, overpasses or in tunnels even if the car's thermometer says it's above freezing. All of these places freeze before road surfaces and may have spots where black ice resides even if the rest of the road doesn't.

Shady spots on roads
You may meet black ice even if the outside temperature is above freezing if you're driving in a tree-canopied area or any shady spot in the road. If possible, stay in the sunniest part of the highway when temperatures plummet and avoid the freezing roads.

Following distance is also very important during freezing temperatures. Stopping on freezing roads can take more than twice as long as stopping on wet pavement, so leave plenty of space between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you.

Also, the posted speed limit is a rule not a goal. Drive for the conditions at hand and a speed you are comfortable with -- if that's 40 kph, then it's 40 kph. Beware of going around curves, and remember, we have the Saber driving course to help get you confident to drive in the Eifel area. See your unit safety representative to sign up.

(Editor's note: There have been 10 reported Spangdahlem AB vehicle accidents in the last two weeks due to temperature fluctuations and black ice.)