Most Americans are familiar with the term “black ice,” though many do not differentiate between black ice and other forms of ice on roadways. During winter months, it is common in many areas for thick layers of ice to develop, but these are not black ice because they are more clearly visible to the human eye. Black ice is a thin layer of clear ice, which allows the color of the road to come through, making it much more difficult to spot.
Though thicker layers of ice are most often associated with snow, black ice is often caused by precipitation when the temperature is near or slightly below freezing. The thin layer of rain can freeze over, creating dangerous patches of ice. Black ice can also be caused by snow melting and refreezing.
Seeing black ice is difficult, so the best thing for a driver to do is to be aware of the likelihood of its existence. Certain environmental factors make black ice more likely to occur. These include temperature shifts from freezing to warm and back to freezing, which allows snow or ice to melt and refreeze.
The fact that black ice occurs at higher temperatures makes it particularly dangerous. Many people assume that because the temperature gauge reads 33 degrees or higher, the risk of ice is low. But air temperature is not always reflective of ground temperature, and ice can develop at temperature great than those typically associated with freezing.
If you have been involved in an accident, and you believe slippery roadways may have been a factor, recognize that the presence of ice does not clear the other driver of responsibility. Though environmental factors are taken into account, there is a reasonable expectation of cautious driving in difficult circumstances. Please, consult with an experienced attorney regarding the particulars of your case.