Driving on black ice: Tips for avoiding a hidden danger on the road

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ByBrhe Berry via KTRK logo
Friday, February 12, 2021
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Even if a road might look clear, it could still be covered in nearly invisible black ice. Here's what you need to know when driving in the winter.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- With the winter weather expected in the Houston area soon, it's possible that drivers will encounter black ice on the roads, especially on Presidents Day.

Black ice forms when the air is at or below 32 degrees and rain is falling. The cold ground temperature causes the precipitation to freeze upon impact, creating ice. Sleet and the refreezing of snow or water can also generate black ice.

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If you've never driven on it, here's what you can do to keep control.

Jennifer Stockburger oversees operations at Consumer Reports Auto Test Center. Her number one piece of advice for driving on black ice is to give yourself space around your vehicle.

"Everything in slick conditions takes longer so leave yourself that room. It not only gives you that room, but it protects you from other drivers that may not be driving appropriately," Stockburger said.

Also, take extreme care on tall ramps and elevated freeways.

"Bridges and overpasses have cold air underneath them, as well as on top of them. So bridges and overpasses may be icier than the road you just came up on," Stockburger said.

If your car does begin to slide, do not panic. Turn into the direction of where you want your car to go. If your car won't turn, don't keep steering more. Keep the wheel steady until you gain the grip.

Houston has some of the highest overpasses in Texas.

For example, the new 610 southbound ramp to 59 northbound is 80 feet high. The new 288 and South Beltway interchange has a ramp that's 92 feet tall. The 290 and West Beltway and the Katy Freeway and West Beltway have ramps 103 and 112 feet tall respectively.

TxDOT will typically close those ramps when they get icy.

Terrifying dash cam footage from Nebraska State Patrol shows a vehicle lose control on black ice swerving from side to side, then running off the road into a ditch. In another scary video, a truck plummets 70 feet onto the road below at an overpass in Milwaukee. Amazingly, the driver survived. You can watch that in the player above.

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