Black ice: what is it, what causes it and how to protect yourself

a sidewalk with a puddle of black ice

Photo taken in Berlin, Germany

While there are many people who enjoy it The recent snowfall in the UK – with visions of a white Christmas and healthy snowball fights with the family – there are dangers that come with the falling temperatures.

Especially ice. Black ice can be very dangerous, especially for the elderly, people with mobility problems and motorists. Therefore, it is important to know what it is and how you should react if you encounter it.

Here’s everything you need to know about black ice, from what causes it to how to maneuver it safely.

What is black ice?

In its simplest definition, black ice is a thin layer of highly transparent ice that is harder for humans to see.

The reason it’s transparent – and where it got its name from – is because it blends in with the blackness of sidewalks and streets since it’s so thin.

The reason black ice is so dangerous is that, without seeing it beforehand, people are more prone to slipping on it.

For the lucky few, landing on your butt in public will only hurt your ego.

However, a fall can prove serious for the elderly or those who already have injuries or other medical conditions.

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What causes black ice?

Black ice forms when the temperature drops below freezing, causing moisture on surfaces to freeze.

If it has rained before or the snow has slowly melted and the temperature suddenly drops, it freezes over and becomes dangerous black ice.

Black ice can also form when moisture in the air condenses to form dew or fog and the temperature then drops below freezing.

Person shoveling icy road

Some good old-fashioned elbow grease can help break up black ice (Picture: Getty)

How to get rid of black ice

While with larger blocks of black ice – such. B. on main roads – can not do too much, you can make the paths around your house safer.

The first step is to get in as early as possible. If the snow starts falling early, start removing it with a shovel. Once you’ve removed the top layer of snow, any sunshine during the day will help melt the underlying ice. You can then cover the trail with salt before nightfall to keep it from refreezing overnight.

If it’s already icy, chemical de-icers can break up the black ice so you can then shovel it off the sidewalk or break it up further to make it easier to walk on the ground.

If it’s a sunny day, you can also just pour some hot, soapy water on the ice. The important thing here is that you only do this if you don’t need to use the path too soon afterwards.

The hot water will loosen the ice and let the sunlight do the rest. However, it gets slippery until it dries off and you should only do that when the temperature rises – if the temperature falls below freezing again, don’t pour more water on the path.

Black ice can be dangerous for drivers (Picture: Getty)

Why is black ice dangerous for drivers and how can drivers recognize it?

Motorists have been urged to stay home in some areas to avoid deadly black ice.

The Met Office has extended an amber warning for snow and ice covering northern Scotland and north east England until midday on Friday.

AA President Edmund King has previously issued a statement warning that black ice can pose a greater hazard than snow due to the lack of visibility.

He said: “When it has snowed, it often melts a little and then freezes overnight. Then you can no longer see the ice the next morning. It’s black ice or you just can’t see it.”

“It’s really the kind of silent killer.”

Tips for driving on ice

Luckily, road experts like The AA and RAC have provided tips on what to do if you skid in a car and drive safely on icy roads. These tips include:

  • Keep your steering wheel straight. If you spin the wheel, you are more likely to skid and lose control of your vehicle
  • Don’t brake. When braking, the vehicle will skid, especially if you brake too hard
  • Leave more space than usual between you and other cars to reduce braking time and skidding
  • Take your foot off the accelerator to decrease speed
  • Pack winter essentials in your car, including warm, waterproof layers, a shovel, a flashlight, a fully charged cell phone and a bottle of hot drink – in case you break down or get stuck on ice.

MORE: School closures after snow, ice and fog unleash chaos across the UK

MORE: Drivers stuck on M25 for two and a half hours after snow brings Britain to a standstill

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Justin Scacco

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