Everything You Need to Know About Black Ice

Black ice is thin, transparent, and requires extra vigilance on winter roads.
Written by Bellina Gaskey
Reviewed by Carrie Adkins
Black ice is a thin layer of near-transparent ice that forms when melted snow freezes overnight and poses a serious threat to drivers and pedestrians each winter. Gear up with snow tires, drive slow, and keep your steering wheel straight to navigate black ice on the road.
As you prepare to trek and drive through winter weather, it’s a good idea to perform general maintenance on your car—and review your
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policy to make sure you’re ready for the unexpected.
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Here’s everything you need to know about black ice, how it forms, and how to deal with it on the road.

What is black ice?

Black ice is a thin, transparent layer of ice that catches many drivers unaware on winter roads each year. It’s actually clear, but it looks black since you usually just see the asphalt of the road beneath.
You’ll typically encounter black ice—also known as "glaze"—in shaded areas of roads and bridges. It’s particularly prevalent in the early morning and late night, when temperatures are coldest and fewer cars have hit the road.

How does black ice form?

Black ice forms during temperature fluctuations. Water (from rain or snow) sitting on the road crystallizes quickly when the temperature drops from above freezing to below freezing. It can happen in a couple of different circumstances:
  • Rain falls in below-freezing conditions and turns directly into black ice
  • Snow or ice melts during the day and re-freezes at night, creating black ice

Why is black ice dangerous?

Black ice is so dangerous because it’s transparent. Since you can’t see it while you’re driving, you’re less likely to slow down in advance. But once you reach the ice, it’s easy to spin out of control.
Black ice has been responsible for many multi-car pile-ups on main roads, treacherous accidents on bridges, and pedestrian injuries.
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Black ice tips for winter driving

Get winter tires

Equipping your vehicle with winter tires at the start of the cold season will help you be prepared for icy roads. Winter tires are crafted with softer rubber and diagonal treads that allow better traction on ice and snow.
If you live somewhere that regularly experiences temperatures below 40 degrees, winter tires are a good idea.

Drive slowly

Even with winter tires, driving slowly is the best way to avoid sliding on black ice. Approach all turns with caution and leave extra time to get to your destination so you won’t need to rush.

Don’t panic

If you do hit a patch of black ice and feel your car sliding out of control, try to stay calm. Here’s what to do:
  • Do not slam on the brakes
  • Keep the steering wheel straight to minimize sliding
  • Let the car start slowing down on its own
  • Tap or pump the brakes—anti-lock brakes (ABS) should help with this

Get winter roadside assistance

Black ice isn’t the only thing to worry about when driving in winter. From getting stuck in a snowbank to losing your way in low visibility conditions to your engine failing to start, the winter can be tough!
With roadside assistance from
in your pocket, you’ll never have to worry about being stranded again. Jerry partners with Urgently to provide up to 10 miles of towing, battery jumpstarts, lockout services, key replacement, and more for just $50 per year.
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What is black ice?

Black ice is a thin layer of transparent ice that forms when roads are wet and the temperature dips below freezing. Its molecular structure is different from "normal" ice, making it harder to see.

Why is black ice so dangerous?

Black ice is invisible from most angles. Drivers who approach it at full speed are at a high risk of a serious accident.
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