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The last few days in Central New Jersey have seen some dangerous “black ice.”
Wet roads and roads covered with packed snow or ice are obvious hazards. The added problem with black ice, however, is that it lacks the cues that convey its danger to drivers. Although not actually black, black ice, also known as clear ice or glare ice, is so thin and transparent that the dark pavement shows through. A roadway covered with black ice can make it look wet or even clear rather than icy.
At temperatures below freezing, any water that comes in contact with the road can turn to ice. Sources of water include:
  • Rain that spreads out and freezes on contact
  • Mist
  • Drizzle
  • Fog
  • Spray (drops of water whipped up by wind and waves in a body of water nearby)
  • Melting snow banks
  • Exhaust from idling automobiles (which can also condense inside tail pipes and drip out)
Black ice occurs more commonly at night and early in the morning, when temperatures are lowest. It is thin enough so that it often quickly melts when hit by sunlight. But it can persist in the shade, in tunnels, on roadways adjacent to bodies of water, and on bridges and overpasses.
Bridges and overpasses receive less heat from the ground and lose more heat to the air, so their surfaces can drop below freezing when the rest of the roadway does not. Highway departments are also more reluctant to spread salt on bridges for fear of hastening the corrosion of their metal parts.
The stopping distance of vehicles on black ice has been measured at about nine times that of the same vehicle on dry pavement. Vehicles with four-wheel drive or with snow tires fare no better. Studded tires and chains reduce the stopping distance 20 percent and from 30-50 percent respectively, but some jurisdictions restrict or prohibit their use because they can damage road surfaces.
Here are some precautions you can take to decrease your likelihood of being involved in a “black ice collision”:
  • Drive slowly at near freezing temperatures and where black ice is more prone to form.
  • If you begin to skid, don’t slam on your brakes. Turn your wheel into the direction of the skid, take your foot off the accelerator and, if need be, SLOWLY apply pressure on the brake.
  • If you suspect, or there is evidence of black ice ahead, such as other sliding vehicles, slow down and shift to a lower gear.
  • Leave plenty of space between your and other vehicles. During a black ice warning, leave at least 200 feet between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead of yours.
  • Inspect your tires regularly. A balding tire provides less control in most conditions.
Black ice can complicate how liability is determined in a motor vehicle accident case.  That means it can affect how much your case is worth.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident involving black ice, call me, attorney Karim Arzadi, at 732-442-5900 or at 1-800-RITELAW=1-800-758-2589.

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