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Beware of black ice

BY DON GAMMILL, Traffic Talk Columnist Published: February 14, 2012
As many Oklahomans discovered Tuesday, black ice is dangerous. It can turn what normally would be a smooth ride into a treacherous journey. And the temperature doesn’t even have to be at freezing or below for it to happen.

It’s one thing to see a shiny roadway and know there’s a good possibility of ice. It’s another to see what appears to be a normal, or possibly wet road and not realize that is has black ice until you’re upon it.

Simply put, black ice is a thin layer of ice that forms on roadways and is basically invisible because it takes on the color of the underlying pavement, which is usually black on an asphalt surface.

It can form from freezing drizzle, wind-blown snow or freezing condensation. The ice can form even when the temperature is a few degrees above freezing.

So how do you know it’s there? If the roadway appears darker, duller in color, it’s very likely there is black ice present. The obvious sign, of course, is when your tires lose their grip and you slide. You don’t have to be speeding to lose control.

There are some things you can/should do to reduce the possibility of having a problem on black ice:

* First, make sure your seat belt is fastened.

* Drive with your headlights on low beam, even if it’s daytime. This makes your vehicle more visible to those around you.

* Keep a safe distance between your vehicle and those ahead of you.

* Keep your speed down.

* If you come upon a slick spot, take your foot off the gas and don’t slam the brakes. Tap them lightly.

* If you begin to slide, turn the steering wheel the direction you are sliding.

Driving experts also point to these reminders:

* Don’t think you are invincible just because you drive something like a pickup or sport utility vehicle.

*A 4-wheel drive vehicle is great for driving in heavy snow, but you’re on your own on black ice.

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