Undercover Black Ice: The Hidden Danger Lurking on San Angelo Roads
The only good thing about winter weather in San Angelo is that it usually doesn't last very long. Unlike places further north where icy conditions can linger for months, there are 70-degree temperatures right around the corner in our forecast.
Driving in an ice storm is almost impossible. The Drive Texas website reports ice and snow on bridges and overpasses in the area. Despite treatment from TxDOT, continued icy precipitation will mean dangerous conditions. (2.1.2023)
In addition, icy conditions are a fact of life during winters in our area, so it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the basics of driving in icy conditions.
Whenever conditions are like this, there is a hidden danger on roadways. It's called black ice. According to the USDA website, "black ice" is a misnomer. The ice isn't strictly black. It is transparent. It's called black ice because it tends to look exactly like the pavement on the road.
Black ice forms most commonly at night or early morning when temperatures are at daily lows. It most commonly forms on bridges, overpasses, or the roads below an overpass. These roadways allow cold air on top and under the bridge which brings freezing faster.
If you do encounter black ice, the first reaction must be to remain calm. They always say that. The best way to stay calm is not to be driving too fast in icy conditions in the first place. This will give you more time to react.
The general rule when encountering black ice is to do as little as possible. Take your foot off the accelerator. Allow your vehicle to pass over the ice. Do not hit the brakes and try to keep the steering wheel straight. Shifting into a lower gear can often give you more control.
If the back end of your car slides left or right, gently turn in the same direction.
Black ice patches are usually short, generally less than 20 feet. Your tires should find traction again soon.
If you lose traction or start skidding use the minimum amount of braking possible. Some braking may be necessary if you're skidding a lot. Anti-lock brakes are definitely better in this situation. If you don't have them, pump the brakes gently as you skid, and always steer in the direction you want your car to go.
If you're heading off the road, try to steer into things that will cause the minimum amount of damage, like an empty field.
The best advice of all is don't drive in icy weather conditions. Even snow is generally easier to navigate. Ice is a whole new level of treacherous. The number of accidents in the San Angelo area already is testimony to this fact. As always, stay safe.