Since you can’t always avoid black ice, the next best thing is to know how to stay safe when driving on it. Here are some tips to remember if you find yourself driving on black ice.
1. Go slow and steady
Just like driving in snow, you’ll want to go slowly and steadily over patches of black ice. Unlike snow, which still offers a little traction for your tires, black ice is completely smooth, and your tires won’t stick at all. As a result, it can be difficult to stop if you’re going too fast. When you reach a patch of black ice, take your foot off the accelerator immediately.
Keeping a straight wheel is also a good idea since you should be able to coast safely over the ice. If you turn your wheel while driving on black ice, you’ll increase the likelihood of losing control of your vehicle. If you start to skid and have to turn, be sure to turn into the skid.
2. Avoid braking or pump brakes
Brakes can be your best friend in many driving emergencies, but not black ice skids. When you approach black ice, let off the brake before your tires make contact. If you’re going too fast and need to brake a little, pump the brakes to avoid going into a full-on skid. Don’t slam on the brakes under any circumstances—you’ll only make your situation worse by doing so.
3. Know how to handle a skid
One of the biggest mistakes drivers make when driving on black ice is overcorrecting a skid. This can compound the problem quickly by sending the car spinning in the other direction. Gently turn into the skid while pumping the brakes. As the skid breaks, return the steering wheel to normal. Once your tires get traction on the road again, you should find it easy to correct from there.
4. Studded tires, snow chains, and four-wheel drive won’t help
While these three features can be helpful in heavy snow, they are virtually useless on black ice. Again, black ice offers no traction at all, which means increasing traction is a moot point.
5. Watch the temperature
Most cars these days come with an external thermometer. Pay attention to the reading and if it drops to freezing (32 degrees F), expect that you’ll run into black ice somewhere. To be extra safe, use caution even when the reading is only near freezing as many car thermometers pick up heat readings from the engine, which can make it seem warmer outside than it actually is.