Dangerous Driving Conditions: Black Ice
February 19, 2021
We all know that in the colder months, roadway weather conditions can become especially treacherous. Black ice, which is a thin coating of clear ice that sits on the surface of the road, is a big part of the problem. Black ice is usually transparent, which means that it is impossible to see. It can lead to disastrous accidents between drivers and cyclists, pedestrians, motorcyclists, or other individuals on the road. These incidents often result not only from the weather conditions themselves, but also from a driver’s failure to account for the dangers that make it so difficult for a motor vehicle to come to a complete and safe stop.
When to Watch out for Black Ice
Black ice develops when the temperature rises above freezing and there is rain accumulation or snow on the ground that begins to melt. When the temperature drops back down below freezing, the wet surface covering the roadway freezes, thereby creating black ice. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), inclement weather and extreme temperatures act together to affect driver capabilities, vehicle performance (such as traction, maneuverability, and stability), traffic flow, and crash risks. The FHA estimates that more than 20% of total annual crashes involve weather-related conditions like black ice, snow, and sleet. Approximately 5,000 people die in weather-related motor vehicle accidents and another 418,000 sustain injuries from them every year.
Drivers are rarely able to see black ice on the roadway ahead of them because of how transparent it is. Luckily, we do know when black ice is likely to form and where it can typically be found. Black ice is more likely to form at certain times and in certain areas due to extreme conditions. For example, the majority of black ice forms between sunset and sunrise when temperatures are at their coldest. This means that an early morning commute can be particularly dangerous. Some of the most common areas that black ice develops on include:
- Underpasses and tunnels
- Roads that receive little-to-no sunlight
- Back roads and other less-trafficked roadways
Tips for Traveling Safely
Drivers are responsible for operating their vehicles in a cautious and safe manner no matter what the weather outside may be. Depending on the severity of a storm, a city may issue a travel advisory urging residents to stay indoors if they can. If an individual must travel, he or she should take the necessary precautions in order to prevent a weather-related crash from happening. When the roads are wet, icy, and/or snowy, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends that drivers observe the following safety tips to reduce known weather-related driving and collision hazards:
- Ready your vehicle. If your vehicle does not undergo regular tune-ups and routine maintenance checks, do not assume it is road safe. To ensure road safety, regularly maintenance and service your vehicle. During the wintertime, pay special attention to your car’s battery, coolant, windshield wipers, tires, and other systems that are prone to developing problems when temperatures drop. Once your vehicle is road-ready, make sure to clear your car’s windows, forward sensors, headlights, tail lights, and back-up camera of all ice, snow, and dirt
- Always drive slowly in inclement weather. You should also increase your following distance to at least five seconds between vehicles so that you have adequate time to stop for vehicles ahead of you. It is critical to leave extra space between your vehicle and a vehicle in front of you because controlled stops are more difficult when the road is slick or icy
- Be ready for an emergency like your vehicle breaking down or getting into an accident. If your car dies, runs out of gas, or you are involved in an accident it may take help longer to arrive depending on weather conditions. Make sure to stock your vehicle with emergency items like flashlights, blankets, flares (or other emergency lights), and jumper cables
- No matter what the weather is outside, the driver and passengers of a vehicle should buckle up every ride. If you are traveling with a child, make sure he or she is secured in an age and size-appropriate child seat. Do not drink and drive and do not drive while distracted. Practice safe and responsible driving habits every time you get behind the wheel
Car Accident Liability
Certain driving behaviors increase the likelihood of a black ice car accident happening. These behaviors include following too closely behind another vehicle, speeding, driving aggressively, passing a vehicle at an unsafe speed or distance, driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, driving while distracted, braking suddenly, and driving while fatigued or drowsy. It is always difficult to determine liability after a car accident occurs, but it can be particularly tricky when someone tries to file a black ice-related collision claim. An experienced attorney can determine if any outside factors influence liability, like if more than one driver or party is at fault or if the municipality may be liable for failing to take reasonable steps to maintain the roadway and clear it from known hazards.
If you were injured in a car accident, an attorney at Galfand Berger can review your claim for free and help you determine what steps you should take next. If you would like to learn more about filing an automobile accident claim, contact a representative at our firm online now.
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