Photo credit: Komo News

The Dark-side of a Winter Wonderland

Many of us were dreaming of a white Christmas-and in some areas across the Northwest-we weren’t disappointed. Cooler temperatures let the snow cover the balmy green boughs and blanket the grounds around us. But as the sunlight causes the white snow to melt during the day, something sinister can happen with freezing overnight temperatures-black ice.

Black ice is also known as glare ice and can create the most dangerous of driving conditions for any driver on the road. This kind of ice forms on roadways with very few bubbles in it, causing it to be almost completely transparent and dense. Because of this fast formation and clear transparency, it simply takes on the color of the surface underneath. Thus black ice actually gets its name from the color of the pavement beneath the frozen shield. The ice is almost invisible to the naked eye, adding just a subtle sheen to the color below.

How Does Black Ice Form?

The fastest way for glare ice to form is when the outside air temperature is warmer than the roadway surface. Any moisture, like rain or melting run-off, will immediately freeze when it comes in contact with the colder surface. Water on the roadway can quickly freeze if the roads have not been treated with a chemical de-icer or melting salts.

Because black ice can occur so rapidly with quick drops in temperature, it can quickly put an unsuspecting driver in perilous danger. One minute they may be driving on wet roads and, and in just a matter of a few moments, they can unknowingly start sliding across the invisible ice. Unfortunately, black ice is hard to watch out for since it’s already so difficult to see.  At night, it can be near impossible to see, significantly raising additional safety concerns for motorists and their passengers.

How to Detect Black Ice

If you are going to be driving through areas where temperatures are forecast to go below freezing, you should always carry a temperature gauge in your car with you. Most late-model vehicles have a sensing gauge built into the driver’s technology package, but if you don’t have one, a simple gauge can be purchased for minimal cost at most stores. Knowing the outside temperature is critical to predicting when the black ice will form. Remember, Water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 Celsius. Simply put, water becomes ICE at 32 degrees. 

At nighttime, lowered temperatures will cause moisture in the air to freeze before it settles on the ground. This creates an almost foggy mist in the air that can be seen even with headlights. Air moisture freezes, making it denser, and is also an indication that the ground surface will soon be cooling as well.

Another way to determine surface temperature is to watch for water spray from the tires on vehicles around you. If there is very little water spray as the tires circulate, chances are, it has already started to freeze on the surface and the condition of the road is changing!

Caution for Existing Wet Surfaces

Melting snow and ice during the day may create standing pools of water on the roads. As temperatures drop, these pools can become icy patches of uncertainty, especially when additional snow covers the surface.

Don’t be over-confident behind the wheel when it comes to snow and black ice. Even the most skilled road warriors know when to concede for safety’s sake. Here are a few tips on how to handle your vehicle and what to do on ice: 


3 Key Elements to Safe Winter Driving:

  • Stay alert;
  • Slow down; and
  • Stay in control

We all rely on the road conditions being taken care by services from the department of transportation, but drivers have a greatest responsibility for maintaining a safe driving environment in wintry conditions. Being cautious and prepared ahead of time for things like black ice and snow can make a huge difference in preventing unfortunate outcomes in the event of freezing rain and ice. 

Here to Help

No matter how much skill or ability you have driving in icy conditions, you can still become a victim in an auto accident if someone else doesn’t drive well. Call Fielding Law Group today if you or a loved one has been injured in a winter auto accident. A free consultation with one of our legal professionals will answer all of your questions about how we can get you the care and compensation you need to get back on the road! Remember-Don’t let an accident wreck YOU!