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It’s Winter in Chicago; Watch Out for Black Ice

It’s Winter in Chicago; Watch Out for Black IceWe’re no stranger to slippery roads here in Chicago. With ice, snow, and rain all falling in the winter season, the streets can become treacherous. While we may consider ourselves to be experts at navigating the different types of blizzards, ice storms, and slush piles, one type of road and sidewalk condition that should always be traversed with caution is black ice.

Black ice is difficult to see, so it is important to know what weather conditions are most likely to form black ice. It is important to know about black ice as well, if you have a driveway or sidewalk you need to keep clear and safe. Black ice has caused innumerable amounts of slip-and-fall accidents and car accidents from the car losing traction as it hits black ice at high speeds. If someone is driving negligently in adverse weather conditions, or someone has neglected to salt or clear their steps or sidewalk, such actions can lead to serious injuries. In these cases, it is important to seek the legal counsel of an experienced lawyer.

What is black ice?

Sleet, snow, and freezing rain are all dangerous forms of precipitation. They can cause slippery conditions for drivers and pedestrians. Black ice is one such condition that is perhaps the most difficult to spot as it is a thin coat of transparent ice, and can often form after a damp night and a freezing cold morning. The moisture that creates black ice does not have to be rain, but any type of moisture, even dew or fog. When you’re out for a morning walk to get the mail or fetch the newspaper, you may suffer a slip-and-fall if you are unaware of any nearly invisible and particularly icy patch that may be on the pavement. Black ice is most dangerous on surfaces where both road and ice are black, and you are traveling possibly at high speeds, which means you are more likely to go skidding off into a guard rail or other car with extreme force.

Where is black ice most common?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service (FS USDA), there are several conditions under which black ice forms, and certain areas of the road or sidewalks where these conditions are most often met. These include:

  • Time of day. Most commonly occurring at night or in the early morning, black ice forms when the temperatures are at their lowest point, and the sun isn’t around to warm the pavement.
  • Locations. Take care of tree-lined routes or tunnels where the sun cannot reach the road. With well-traveled roads, the warmth from the friction of the tires will melt ice and snow, but on rural, less-traveled roads, the ice may still be quite frozen and slick.
  • Bridges. Because bridges and overpasses are open to the freezing air from above and below, they will naturally freeze faster than roads on land, which are insulated by the ground itself. That is why there are signs that caution “Bridge freezes before road.”

Anywhere that has seen precipitation that is freezing cold, and where the sun isn’t hitting, are places that black ice will likely form. It is critical to recognize these conditions, and to adapt your driving behavior to the risk.

How do I detect black ice?

Usually, black ice is only detected when you are looking for it, and under the right lighting (dawn, dusk, or daylight). While the ice is nearly invisible, it forms a glassy surface on the road or pavement. Especially if the other parts of the road are rough and normal, but there is a glassy spot, that is likely black ice. If it is right in front of you, you should prepare for what to do when driving on black ice.

In the mornings, when you go out to walk the dog or check the mail, you should first do an ice check, throwing rock salt or gravel onto slippery areas you find while you are paying special attention. That way, later when you need to focus on other things, you will be less likely to suffer a slip-and-fall accident.

What should I do if I end up driving on black ice?

Many of us Chicagoans have likely experienced our cars hydroplaning or sliding over ice and snow at some point. It can be a frightening experience, especially if you lose complete control over your vehicle. Once you realize you are sliding on ice, there are steps you can take that can lessen the chance that you will end up injured or injuring others. We’re going to let the experts at the FS USDA explain exactly what to do:

If you do hit black ice, your first reaction must be to remain calm and avoid overreacting. The general rule is to do as little as possible and allow the car to pass over the ice. Do not hit the brakes, and try to keep the steering wheel straight. If you feel the back end of your car sliding left or right, make a very gentle turn of the steering wheel in the same direction. If you try to struggle against it by steering in the opposite direction, you risk skidding or spinning out.

If you do skid out, do not touch the brakes, don’t turn the wheel, downshift if possible, and attempt to head for areas of friction such as “textured ice, snow-covered areas, spots with sand, etc.”

It is important to know that if you slip and fall on someone else’s property, or if you are in an accident where another driver skids over black ice and collides with your vehicle, you are likely eligible for compensation. The people who own the property where there are unattended slippery spots are responsible for the safety of their property; and car owners are still held responsible for the control of their vehicle even under icy conditions or inclement weather. As the victim, you could file a premises liability lawsuit or a personal injury lawsuit, respectively.

If you have suffered an accident due to black ice, and it was caused by someone’s negligence, you deserve financial compensation for the injuries you may have suffered. The lawyers at Gainsberg Law will ensure that your case is our priority, and we will fight for you every step of the way. For a free consultation, call us today in Chicago, or use our contact form. Let us help.