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Black Ice - One of the most treacherous of winter driving conditions

January 17, 2017

Seldom do Atlanta drivers pay attention to national winter weather forecasts about an approaching Polar Vortex, a powerful cold front that surges down from the artic once or twice a winter, bringing a sudden, bone-chilling blast of frigid air to the Upper Midwest, Northeast, and occasionally, the mid-Atlantic. But they should. If a Polar Vortex is strong enough to reach Atlanta, it can generate the most treacherous of all driving conditions, black ice. Some of the worst multi-vehicle crashes--often involving one or more fatalities--result from a surprise encounter with black ice.

What is black ice?

Black ice--a thin slick of clear ice--is so named because it blends in with the pavement. It is almost impossible to spot, particularly at night, dusk or dawn. It forms when the temperature of the road surface and the air at ground level has been at 32 degrees or below for several hours before any rain or sleet begins to fall from warmer air aloft. When precipitation begins, it freezes immediately upon contact with the road surface, forming a thin layer of clear ice over the dark pavement. Sleet and refreezing snow-melt can also generate dangerous black ice.

Black ice prevents a vehicle's tires from gaining any traction with the road surface, causing vehicles of all sizes to slide out of control even when traveling at relatively slow speeds. It is especially dangerous on bridges which typically freeze before surface roadways, and on hills and curves where the laws of physics and lack of traction fail to communicate.

What to do if black ice is likely

The best option is to not drive at all whenever a wintery mix is in the forecast. Typically, black ice melts quickly after the application of an industrial ice melt or road salt, so delaying the journey for several hours is the wisest choice. If that is not possible, being aware that black ice is likely to form and where is critical. Your car has equipment that can be helpful. Constantly listen to your local traffic and weather forecast on the car radio during your trip. Your car's digital thermometer is another useful tool. It reports the ambient air temperature outside. If the read-out is close to freezing and any form of moisture is falling—rain, sleet, snow, fog—you should be extra-cautious about the possibility of black ice. Slow down, avoid bridges and hills, if possible, be on the alert for other drivers who may not be as cautious.

Tips to stay safe while driving on black ice

Julie Lee, Vice President and National Director of AARP Driver Safety, offers these tips whenever one encounters black ice. First and foremost, stay calm until your vehicle passes over the ice patch.

1. Do not hit the brakes; instead, keep your steering wheel steady.
2. Lift your foot off the accelerator.
3. Do not overcorrect your steering if you feel your car sliding.

If you are involved in a collision caused by black ice, stay calm and stay put. Do not exit your vehicle until the authorities arrive. All too frequently, motorists or their passengers are injured-- sometimes killed--when they get out of their vehicles and are hit by a following vehicle which itself has been hit during a pileup. The authorities will investigate the incident and determine the cause and order of every collision so it is important that you provide them with as much information as possible about how the collision with your car occurred.

Put Our Law Firm's Over 38 Years of Legal Experience to Work For Your Accident Claim!

Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, assists victims of Georgia car wrecks and other traffic collisions in the Southeast recover compensation for their injuries and losses. This may include monetary compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, punitive damages if the at-fault driver's conduct rose to the level of gross negligence and more. We strive to achieve the most favorable outcome possible for our clients under the law. 

Our law firm has over 38 years of experience in representing car accident victims across Georgia and in the Southeast. Contact us to schedule your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.


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Category: Auto Accidents

Please Note:
Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.