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Black ice driving tips: Stay safe out there

Black ice is one of the most terrifying things you can encounter while driving. A patch of black ice can render you helpless as suddenly you can’t stop, turn or control your vehicle’s speed. Your car seems to have a mind of its own as it drifts toward the shoulder, slides into oncoming traffic or begins to spin out of control.

A considerable amount of snow and ice have swept through the Chicagoland area this year—putting drivers, passengers and pedestrians at risk. When the risk of encountering icy road conditions is high, it’s important to adjust your driving behaviors to reduce the likelihood of being involved in a traffic accident.

Here are a few things you need to know to stay safe:

  1. Always assume there is ice on the road: Drive carefully and slowly, paying attention to the traffic around you. Minimize distractions. Be ready to react as soon as you feel your vehicle slide. If black ice takes you by surprise, it’s much more dangerous. Being constantly vigilant when temperatures are below freezing can help you avoid an accident.
  2. Do not slam on the brakes: Most drivers automatically slam on the brakes when they realize they are losing control of their vehicle. Doing so, however, is rarely effective. Instead, stay calm and take your foot of off the gas. If you want to reduce your speed, consider downshifting as you tap the brakes. Let the engine do the work. Slamming on the brakes often causes your car to spin out of control.
  3. Look for traction: For instance, the shoulder of the road may be covered in gravel and snow, which isn’t ideal, but it’s better than ice. If you can navigate your vehicle towards the shoulder, you may be able to safely regain control of your vehicle.
  4. Do not overcorrect: If you start to lose control of your vehicle, try to keep the wheel and the car as straight as you can, even if you’re sliding. Do not panic. Try to stay calm and carefully correct your course. Remember that ice often clears up after a few seconds, so sliding through it safely may get you back on dry pavement.
  5. Warn Other Drivers: If you’re going to slide through an intersection, into the other lane or into the back of another car, use your horn. You may not be able to stop, but you can let other drivers know you’re coming so they can take evasive action.