Stay alert, adjust your speed, and keep a greater distance

24 Nov 2021 News & Campaigns
DEKRA accident researcher Stefanie Ritter warns that “patches of black ice on roads during the cold season take drivers by surprise time and time again. The most common time for this to happen is when the temperature is just a few degrees above freezing and most of the road surface still looks like it provides a good grip.” However, in some places on the road, the temperature can drop below freezing sooner than in the surrounding areas. Those often affected include cool wooded areas, shady north-facing slopes, windy high plains, depressions in which cold air gets trapped, and even bridges, where cold air blows against the underside. If rain or dew freezes, or frost settles on the road, this can turn into dreaded areas of black ice.
“It is important to be on your guard and not get taken by surprise. When the temperature outside drops, drive more carefully, lower your speed, and keep a greater distance,” advises the expert. “One indication that the roads might be icy is when a thin layer of ice forms on the windows of vehicles parked outside overnight.”
It is vital to heed any warning signs that indicate slippery conditions from snow and ice. In several countries, “snowflake” signs warn drivers that they are about to drive over a section of road that is easily susceptible to the formation of black ice. A large number of modern vehicles also have technology that alerts drivers to this risk, with a warning appearing on the display and a sound given when the outside temperature drops to a critical range – below around 4°C (around 39°F).
If a vehicle starts to slip on ice, the driver should try to regain control by releasing the clutch, carefully counter-steering, and performing an emergency brake if necessary. For vehicles that have an antilock braking system (ABS), drivers need to press down firmly on the brake pedal to engage the full braking power. But for older vehicles without ABS, continuous braking will only prevent the driver from being able to continue steering. Drivers of these vehicles should try to get the vehicle back under control by releasing the clutch and braking intermittently.