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Black Ice and Collisions

Black Ice and Collisions


Posted December 27, 2018

We all know that when we are driving in the winter, it is particularly important to be alert for dangerous road conditions caused by snow, slush or ice. One of the more dangerous winter road hazards is black ice because it is almost invisible. Black ice gets its name from the colour of the pavement underneath it. It is particularly difficult to see it because it is thin and transparent.

How Black Ice Forms

Ice can form when the temperature dips below freezing. The risk of ice forming is highest between sunset and sunrise, or during periods of thaw and freeze. Wet pavement can freeze to form a thin layer of very transparent ice. Road wetness can be caused by an earlier snow fall, ice that melts and then refreezes, or moisture in the air that condenses into fog or dew.

Black ice can form on any road but it is most frequently found on bridges and overpasses (because air passing underneath the pavement can make the road surface colder) and in shaded areas (where the temperature may also be cooler than adjacent areas).

Navigating Black Ice

You may not realize you are approaching a road coated with black ice until you are actually driving on it. If your vehicle unexpectedly begins to slide, resist the impulse to apply the brakes. Tires have practically no traction on black ice and braking may cause you to skid even more with complete loss of control. The best response is to remove your foot from the accelerator and focus on keeping the vehicle moving into the slide. You do this by gently turning in the same direction that the rear of the vehicle is sliding. If the back of your car is sliding to the left, turn the wheel to the left. As the car straightens out, gradually straighten the steering wheel.

Take Precautions

Temperatures at or near freezing will alert you to be extra attentive for the presence of black ice.

Most newer motor vehicles have thermometers and these are a good way to determine the risk of black ice. If you are going for a long trip, before heading out, check the current temperatures and weather forecast for your intended route on a weather app.

Even though you have considered the likely road conditions and risk of encountering black ice, that doesn’t mean the other drivers you will encounter have. If the conditions are right for the formation of black ice reduce your speed and leave extra space between your car and nearby vehicles.

Injured In An Accident On Black Ice

If you are in an accident caused by black ice and if black ice was present because the road was not properly maintained, you may be entitled to sue the responsible municipality. Be aware that there is a very short 10 day period to notify the municipality, in writing, of the accident. Failure to comply with this short notice period may affect your ability to sue. This means that if you are involved in a collision where you suspect black ice or other unsafe road conditions contributed to the accident, you must contact a lawyer right away.


Black ice can surprise even the most cautious drivers. Know what weather conditions and locations increase the risk of black ice being present and adjust your speed and distances from other vehicles accordingly. Should you start to skid on black ice, remain calm, avoid braking, turn into the swerve and let your vehicle slow down on its own.

This blog post was written by Edward (Ted) Masters, a member of the Disability Insurance Claims and Personal Injury teams. He can be reached at 613-566-2064 or at

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