Black ice is defined as a thin coat of highly transparent ice, making it nearly invisible or easily mistaken for standing water on pavement. It forms anytime road surface temperatures drop below the freezing point (32° F) and the air temperature is higher than the pavement. Black ice is known for creating transportation hazards for everyone involved from transit drivers and emergency personnel to citizen drivers, even walkers and bicyclists.
Driving on black ice is differentiated from snow based on the amount of traction it allows a vehicle to retain. Even when the air temperature begins to raise drivers need to remain cautious, driving at decreased speeds, noting pavement temperatures do not rise as quickly and salt on roadways can become ineffective at lower temperatures. Additionally, drivers should increase their following distance, stay off of the accelerator and avoid overcorrecting the steering wheel if the vehicle begins to slide.
While traffic deaths fell 3% in 2013, as a risk manager, training your fleet drivers on winter driving safety could potentially save lives and your public entity a substantial amount in injury and property damage-related expenses. Are your fleet risk management practices clearly outlined for employees? For best practices, OneBeacon Government Risks recommends you to consider sending your public entity personnel an email or creating a one-page document explaining your policies and procedures for safe winter driving.
Bonus Information on Black Ice and Winter Hazards:
- What Is Black Ice? (via Weather.com)
- Black Ice: A Hazard for Drivers (via Safety and Health Magazine)
- Weathering the Winter Season (via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—NOAA)
- Road Icing Myths and Frequently Asked Questions (via Icy Road Safety)
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