Winter in New York brings with it a picturesque snowfall and a less welcome companion—black ice. This silent hazard is a common cause of many car accidents during the colder months, with around 116,800 people suffering injuries due to icy or snowy roads each year.
In New York, black ice is responsible for catastrophic crashes and injuries. In 2023, for example, black ice caused an 18-vehicle pile-up on Route 9W near Fort Montgomery.
Black ice is a deceptive and dangerous road condition that requires heightened awareness and cautious driving. Understanding how to identify black ice and taking the necessary precautions can reduce your risk of an accident.
Black ice presents a treacherous challenge on roadways due to its deceptive appearance. This phenomenon occurs when a thin, transparent layer of ice forms on the surface, allowing the dark pavement underneath to show through. This effect gives black ice its name, as it often looks like a wet patch on the road.
Black ice forms due to light freezing rain or when the moisture in the air condenses and freezes upon hitting a cold surface. Drivers often can’t see it, making it difficult to slow down or drive safely on the slick surface, leading to accidents.
Black ice creates serious hazards for drivers, typically on overpasses, bridges, and curved roads. Here are the most common dangers of black ice and where they occur:
|Vehicles have less grip on the road, making it harder to steer or maintain control.
|Turning at intersections, changing lanes, and driving on curves.
|Increased Braking Distance
|It takes longer to stop the vehicle, leading to potential rear-end collisions or sliding through intersections.
|Approaching stop signs, traffic lights, or slowed traffic.
|Poor Visibility of Ice
|Black ice is almost invisible, making it difficult for drivers to recognize and react in time.
|Early morning or late-night driving, especially on bridges and overpasses.
|Vehicle Control Loss
|Sudden movements can cause the vehicle to skid or spin out of control, especially at higher speeds.
|Accelerating, decelerating, or making sharp turns.
Identifying Black Ice
Knowing what to look for to identify black ice can help you take extra precautions and adjust your driving style. The following tips can help you spot black ice:
- Check the time and temperature. Be extra cautious in the early morning and late at night, as these are peak times for black ice formation, especially when temperatures drop to freezing or below.
- Observe road conditions under shade. Black ice often forms in shaded areas, like under trees or bridges, where the sun doesn’t reach to warm the pavement.
- Look for glossy surfaces on the road. While normal roads have a matte appearance, black ice looks glossy and smooth. Be alert for these changes in the road’s texture.
- Watch for a lack of water spray from vehicles. If you notice that the vehicles ahead aren’t kicking up water spray as they usually would, it could be a sign of black ice.
- Feel for changes in vehicle handling. Pay attention to how your vehicle responds. If the steering feels lighter or the vehicle seems to drift, it could signify you’re on black ice.
- Monitor areas prone to black ice. Bridges, overpasses, and areas rarely traveled by vehicles are more prone to black ice. Exercise increased caution on these paths.
- Watch for warning signs on the road. Sometimes, local authorities place warning signs in areas known for black ice. Heed these signs and reduce your speed accordingly.
While black ice is dangerous, there are several measures you can take to reduce the risk of an accident:
- Reduce speed. Lowering your speed gives you more time to react if you start to slide on black ice.
- Avoid sudden movements. Abrupt steering, accelerating, or braking can lead to loss of control and cause your vehicle to slide. Make smooth and gradual movements instead, like gently decelerating, if you encounter black ice.
- Use low beams and fog lights. In dark or foggy conditions, fog lights or low beams can improve visibility without causing glare off the ice.
- Maintain a comfortable distance. Increase your following distance to more than the usual 3 to 4 seconds. This extra space gives you more time to react if the car in front of you stops suddenly or loses control.
- Maintain proper tire pressure. Properly inflated tires ensure the best possible traction, crucial for driving on slippery surfaces like black ice.
- Avoid using cruise control. Cruise control can be dangerous on slippery surfaces because it prevents quick deceleration. If you start to skid on ice, adjust your speed manually quickly.
If you’re involved in an accident on black ice in Central New York, it can be a terrifying experience. While these are often considered no-fault crashes due to black ice’s sudden and unpredictable nature, you may be able to seek damages from another party’s insurance if their actions caused the collision.
For example, drivers are expected to maintain control of their vehicles at all times, which includes adjusting driving habits to suit weather conditions. If another motorist speeds, drives under the influence, or fails to maintain their car’s brakes, and that motorist causes your injury, then you can file a claim for damages.
Other parties, like parts manufacturers or the city or state government, could be liable for the accident. For instance, if your car’s steering wheel doesn’t work properly due to a manufacturing defect or the city neglected road maintenance, you could file a claim against the responsible party.
If you’ve been hit by another driver who lost control on black ice, our skilled Syracuse car accident lawyers at Catalano Law can assist you in seeking any compensation you deserve. We recognize how devastating a car accident can be, particularly when caused by another’s actions.
Our New York personal injury attorneys have secured millions through settlements and verdicts for people harmed due to another’s negligence. Let us put our experience to work for you. Contact us today for a complimentary case review.