Black Ice. Sounds like a great name for a rock group, doesn’t it? But those of us who’ve encountered it know that it’s no laughing matter and is one of those hidden dangers of winter that can sneak up on us out of nowhere, causing considerable harm and even death.

What is black ice and how does it form?

Black ice is really no different from other ice on common road surfaces but the problem occurs because you can’t see it! Such ice is transparent; it takes on the color of the roadway so that the roadway either looks dry or just wet. It isn’t until your vehicle (or your feet) touch that surface that you recognize that it’s actually ice.

Black ice most often occurs when temperatures rise during the day and ground snow melts, causing road surfaces to get wet. If the sun goes down and the temperatures drop below freezing before that water has a chance to dry, black ice forms on paved surfaces due to refreezing of the water. This can happen on any paved surface but presents real problems for vehicles on slick roadways.

Black ice might also be the result of dew or fog that makes surfaces wet prior to temperature drops. This really catches drivers off guard because there isn’t any real precipitation that can be observed before the freezing.

Where will I find black ice?

Black ice can happen anywhere, but it becomes a particular problem on bridges and overpasses or on spots of a roadway that remain shaded by trees or buildings during the day. That means the sun hasn’t reached those spots, so they stay wet while other parts of the road become dry.

Bridges and overpasses are especially susceptible to black ice because they are cooled from both above and underneath. This means they freeze way more quickly than normal roads, which are only cooled from above, so black ice is more likely to form in these areas. And, of course, these are the scariest places to be involved in a spin-out or slide because the risk of falling off the bridge or roadway is very real.

Statistics show that some 30 percent of all car accidents in Canada happen during snowy conditions. While there is no data that lets us know how many of those accidents involve black ice, it’s likely that the number is quite high. Most Canadians understand how to drive in the snow and are quite adept at handling conditions that call for defensive driving, but black ice can sneak up on any driver, no matter how experienced.

How to handle black ice

If you find yourself on black ice, remembering how to react can be difficult. There are a few pointers that can help you keep a bad situation from turning into a deadly situation, however.

  • Keep your steering wheel straight. Turning the wheeling may cause more sliding and you could go into a spin and lose control of your vehicle.
  • DO NOT slam on your brakes. Braking will cause you to slide even more. Just go with the slide.
  • Take your foot off the accelerator. This will obviously reduce your speed and let your car stop on its own.

None of these pointers can guarantee you won’t be in an accident, especially if there are other cars around, but they could lessen the severity of the accident.

Black ice and your property

The development of black ice and controlling that development becomes a huge issue when you’re a property owner and when that ice could cause harm to someone else, including employees or clients/customers.

It’s necessary to stay on top of freezing and refreezing when you own property with streets, driveways, parking lots, and side walks that are prone to icing. The best way to do that is to hire a snow removal company that regularly monitors the situation at your property. You want a company that doesn’t just come out, remove snow, and then walk away.

Fraser Valley Snow Removal uses a 24-hour weather monitoring service in order to assure our clients that black ice isn’t going to be a problem. If we see dipping temperatures that could cause refreezing, we’ll be out to de-ice your surfaces before they cause injury to you or someone else. And if we have to come out again and again, we will. We do the job right so that you’re never left holding the bag, so to speak.

Liability is a big deal for business owners, and untreated surfaces could leave you liable for accidents. Not only could that cost you (and your insurance company) lots of money, but when someone is hurt or dies on your property, you never quite recover from the emotional loss of such an event.


If you haven’t yet addressed your snow and ice removal needs or are unhappy with your present snow removal company, call Fraser Valley for a free, no-obligation assessment and to learn how we can help you manage black ice and the other hazards that come with winters in Canada.