Icy roads are always dangerous, but black ice is particularly treacherous. It is rarely visible, often exists on otherwise dry pavement, and usually much more slick than snow, slush, or normal ice.
Black ice is actually completely clear, and very thin, so it blends in with the pavement. It forms when snow or ice melts and refreezes in a bubble-free, glass-like sheet. This can occur while it is snowing, because the pavement retains heat and is often warmer than the air temperature, allowing the snow to melt at first, and then freeze as the road cools. It can also occur when air temperatures are above freezing, if the ground has retained cooler temperatures or on bridges and overpasses where the airflow cools the road from the top and bottom.
Black ice takes drivers by surprise. Since it is not visible, and often exists on otherwise dry roads, drivers are often travelling at normal speeds when they hit a patch of black ice, instead of the slower speeds that cautious drivers use when hazardous conditions are obvious. When the entire road is covered by black ice, it only becomes obvious when you brake or turn, suddenly losing control of the vehicle.
Accidents caused by black ice
If you must drive In snowy and icy conditions, you can reduce your risk ofcrashing by driving an appropriate vehicle, such as a 4-wheel or front wheel drive, having weather appropriate tires, and using chains when necessary. On black ice, even these basic precautions may not be enough. Your best protection from being involved in an accident in icy conditions is to drive slowly and cautiously, maintaining an ample distance from other vehicles.
This is precisely why black ice accidents are often so serious. Unaware of the dangerous conditions, drivers do not drive slowly or take the other necessary precautions, so an accident is not only more likely, but more likely to be severe. Types of accidents commonly caused by black ice include:
- Head on collisions
- Running off the road
- Multicar pileups
- Rear-end collisions
In addition to the injuries which would normally be caused by such an accident, victims of black ice crashes are often exposed to extreme cold. Single car accidents, especially those in which the vehicle runs off the road and out of sight, can mean that victims are not discovered and do not receive medical attention for hours. In sub-freezing temperatures, this can lead to frostbite and amputation.
During an accident investigation, black ice is not always discovered as the cause. Often, the ice melts before investigators arrive. This can lead to misallocation of blame for the accident and even criminal charges of reckless driving.
Black ice and defective roadways
Black ice is often the result of a defective roadway including:
- Improper maintenance
- Poor design
- Lack of warning signs
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an accident caused by black ice, contact an experienced auto accident attorney today.