AAA: Tips for Driving on Black Ice

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Beth Mosher
phone: 630.328.7234
January 08, 2014

AURORA, Ill. – Snow, extreme cold and blizzard-like weather can create extremely dangerous driving conditions for motorists on most roads.  After extreme conditions, black ice is often prevalent on the roads, which can be extremely dangerous for drivers. AAA offers the following tips for drivers who encounter black ice on the roadways:
Tips for Driving on Black Ice:
  • Be sure to have a winter weather kit in your car.  The kit should include an ice scraper, a blanket, flashlight with extra batteries, jumper cables, bag of kitty litter, reflective triangles/flares, shovel, cloth/paper towels and a fully charged cellphone.
  • Be aware of and on the lookout  for black ice.  Pavement with black ice will be a little darker and duller than the rest of the road surface.  It commonly forms on highly shaded areas, infrequently traveled roads and on bridges and overpasses.
  • Use extreme caution on bridges and overpasses.  Bridges and overpasses freeze first and melt last.  Although the roadway leading up to a bridge may appear to be fine, use caution because the bridge itself could be a sheet of ice.
  • Slow down. Drive, turn and brake slowly. Adjust your speed to the road conditions and leave yourself ample room to stop.  Give yourself three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.
  • Be alert of traffic ahead. Slow down at the sight of brake lights, fishtailing cars, sideways cars or emergency flashers ahead.
  • Never use cruise control.
  • Avoid unnecessarily changing lanes.  It increases your chances of hitting a patch of ice between lanes that could cause you to lose control of the vehicle.
Tips for Braking on Black Ice:
  • Avoid braking on ice. If you’re approaching a patch of ice, brake during your approach. Control the skid. Applying pressure to your brakes while on ice will throw your car into a skid. 
  • Control the skid. In the event that your car is skidding, ease off the accelerator or brake and steer in the direction you want the front of the car to go.
  • If your car has an anti-lock braking system (ABS): Do not remove your foot from the brake.  When you put on the brakes hard enough to make the wheels lock momentarily, you will typically feel the brake pedal vibrate and pulsate back against your foot. This is normal and the system is working as it is designed to. Do not pump the pedal or remove your foot from the brake.
  • If your car does not have an anti-lock braking system: The best way to stop is threshold braking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal to the “threshold” of locking your brakes. Remember, you must keep your heel on the floor. If your heel leaves the floor, your brakes could lock.
  • Before starting out in snowy weather, take time to remove the snow from the entire car so it doesn’t blow onto your windshield or the windshields of other drivers. Make sure your mirrors and lights are clean.
  • Drive with your low-beam headlights illuminated.
  • Watch for icy surfaces on bridges and intersections, even when the rest of the road seems to be in good condition.
  • Look farther ahead in traffic. Actions by other drivers will alert you to problems and give you extra seconds to react.
  • When changing lanes, avoid cutting in front of trucks, which need more time and distance than passenger vehicles to stop.
  • Don't use cruise control in precipitation and freezing temperatures.
  • Remember that four-wheel drive helps you to get going quicker, but it won't help you stop any faster.
  • Apply constant, firm pressure to the pedal with anti-lock brakes.

AAA Chicago is part of The Auto Club Group (ACG), the second largest AAA club in North America.  ACG and its affiliates provide membership, travel, insurance and financial services offerings to approximately 8.5 million members across 11 states and two U.S. territories, including Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; most of Illinois, Minnesota and a portion of Indiana.  ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with nearly 53 million members in the United States and Canada. Its mission includes protecting and advancing freedom of mobility and improving traffic safety.

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