Local Leaders | Highlands Drive Safe: How to drive on black ice

Living in a cooler climate area brings many dangers when travelling on our roads.

Sue Tyler

Sue Tyler

One that we hear people talk about a lot in winter in the Highlands is black ice. 

But what is black ice?

Although the ice is not actually black, it is transparent like normal ice, we see it as a shiny patch on the black road on cold mornings or evenings.

Because the road surface is black, we see the ice as a black colour.

Black ice usually settles in the shady areas on the road where the temperature does not allow thawing to occur, for example, on bends and corners that are sheltered by the trees. 

Because black ice is a relatively thin coating of ice it is difficult to see, and drivers often do not slow down in time to deal with the danger, finding themselves off the road in a ditch.

So what do you do if there is black ice on the roads?

The important thing is to slow down in cold conditions where ice may form.

The slower you drive the more traction you have on the road surface, hence better grip.

If you do feel the car slide, take your foot off the accelerator.

By simply de-accelerating you are increasing your tyre surface to the road and increasing traction.

Do not hit the brakes. Although this is a natural instinct when we panic, it will only cause the car to spin out of control and possibly leave the road. 

However, it is important to note that slowing in these conditions is the best prevention to this situation.

Do not make sudden movements in your steering as the icy conditions will exaggerate them. Gently and calmly steer the car.

Defensive driving courses can be helpful in learning to deal with correcting cars in a slide.

Do not follow cars too closely in case they slide and hit your vehicle.

If you need to brake in a dangerous situation you will need more space and time to brake.

Keep at least a five second gap in front of you to deal with any dangers.

At 50 km/h this gap looks like an Olympic swimming pool in distance.

Most importantly, wear a seat belt to prevent injuries.

Winter is a dangerous time of year on the roads as conditions can be unpredictable.

You may be travelling along safely and a sudden change in conditions may see ice forming on roads that is often undetectable.

Country/rural roads are notorious for icy conditions – look out and be aware.

For more information on driving visit www.highlandsdrivesafe.com.

 – Sue Tyler