Watch out for black ice

Freezing temperatures have arrived throughout the Okanagan, and are forecast to stick around into next week. 

With daytime temperatures hovering around the freezing mark and overnight lows dipping down into the minus double digits, it will mean drivers will have to take more caution commuting. 

While the roads might appear bare, drivers should be on the lookout for black ice.

The Ministry of Transportation is providing drivers with some tips to handle black ice, should they need it. 

"Even though our maintenance contractors are out on BC highways, day and night, doing their part to keep travellers safe, it’s your job to slow down, drive to winter conditions and always expect the unexpected."

What exactly is black ice?

Black ice isn't black at all. It is a thin clear layer of glazed ice on a road's surface. It is called black ice because it takes on a dark colouring from the pavement below it. Because it is so thin, it is often invisible to the human eye.

The most common way black ice is formed is by melting snow on or beside the road. 

"After a winter storm, when temperatures climb above freezing during the day, snow will melt into water. Add another sharp dip in temperatures later in the afternoon or during the night and any standing water will freeze into black ice."

Where is it most likely to form?

The ministry points out drivers need to be extra vigilant while travelling on roads that don’t get much sunshine, like the floor of a mountain valley or along a tree-lined street. 

Bridges and overpasses cool from above and below and freeze much faster than other parts of the road.

Even water vapour from rivers and streams can, under the right conditions, freeze into black ice on the roadway. 

Now, what to do if you hit black ice?

Stay calm. Keep the steering wheel straight and DO NOT hit the brakes. Instead, ease off the gas pedal and if you can, shift into a lower gear to gain more control. Steer the car in the direction you want it to go.

What to do if you lose control on black ice?

If you have to brake, try to brake as little as possible. If your car has an anti-lock braking system, put your foot firmly down on the brake and the car will pump the brakes as you skid; if you don’t have ABS, pump the brakes lightly. 

And during winter conditions avoid cruise control. Using cruise can actually make you lose control. 

"Our maintenance contractors monitor road and weather conditions 24/7. If they see conditions in the forecast that can create black ice, they hit the road with a variety of anti-icing tools to battle it including, salt and sand, even beet juice," stated the Ministy.

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