How To Drive On Black Ice (16 Tips)

WRITTEN BY: Julia Matseikovich


Winter driving can be treacherous, especially when faced with the challenge of black ice. Its invisible presence on the road poses a significant risk to drivers. In this article, we unravel the secrets of navigating black ice, equipping you with essential tips and techniques to ensure your safety and confidence behind the wheel.

How to drive on black ice (16 tips)

When it comes to driving on black ice, safety is paramount. In the upcoming sections, you’ll uncover a wealth of practical tips and guidance to navigate these treacherous conditions confidently. 

From staying informed about weather updates to maintaining control during skids, you’ll learn the key strategies to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

1. Regularly check weather reports

Knowing the weather conditions is key to anticipating black ice hazards and planning your journeys accordingly. Stay informed to stay safe.

2. Reduce your speed

When driving on icy roads, slowing down is crucial. It allows you to maintain control, react better, and navigate the hazards effectively.

3. Use gentle acceleration and braking

Avoid sudden movements when accelerating or braking on black ice. Gradual and gentle actions help maintain traction and prevent skidding.

4. Avoid cruise control

Disable cruise control when driving on black ice. Maintaining complete control over your vehicle’s acceleration and braking is essential for safety.

5. Maintain a safe following distance

Increase the distance between your vehicle and the one ahead to ensure you have enough time to stop safely, preventing collisions.

6. Don’t make abrupt steering movements

Smooth and gradual steering adjustments are vital for maintaining control on black ice. Avoid sudden turns or swerving to prevent skidding.

7. Pay attention to shaded areas

Shaded spots on the road are more prone to black ice. Transition cautiously from sunny areas to shaded sections, staying alert.

8. Use low-beam headlights for improved visibility

Enhance visibility by using low-beam headlights, even during the day. This helps spot black ice patches and alerts other drivers.

9. Avoid sudden braking

Apply brakes gradually and avoid sudden, hard braking on icy surfaces to prevent skidding and maintain control.

10. Be cautious on bridges and overpasses

Approach bridges and overpasses cautiously, as they freeze faster and stay icy longer. Maintain a consistent speed and prepare for reduced traction.

11. Be prepared for skids

Learn skid control techniques like steering into skids to regain control of your vehicle on black ice. Practice in a safe environment.

12. Equip winter tires for better traction

Install winter tires on your vehicle to enhance traction on icy roads, greatly improving your safety on black ice.

13. Don’t solely rely on electronic safety features

While electronic stability control (ESC) and anti-lock braking systems (ABS) assist, drive cautiously and avoid relying solely on these features.

14. Stay calm and focused

Maintain a calm and focused mindset when encountering black ice. Stay attentive, maintain a steady speed, and avoid panicking.

15. Minimize distractions

Minimize distractions inside your vehicle, such as phone use or adjusting the radio, to stay entirely focused on driving and black ice hazards.

16. Enhance your skills

Enroll in driver safety programs or defensive driving courses covering icy road conditions. Enhance your skills and knowledge for navigating black ice effectively.

What is black ice (and why is it more dangerous than regular ice)?

Imagine driving along, and suddenly, your wheels lose traction, sending your heart racing. That’s black ice for you.

Black ice is a thin, transparent layer of ice that forms on the road, often disguised as a harmless wet spot. It’s practically invisible.

Unlike regular ice, black ice lacks telltale air bubbles, making it nearly impossible to spot until it’s too late. 

Another problem is black ice offers minimal grip, causing your tires to slip and slide with little warning. This can lead to sudden skids and loss of control, posing a significant risk to drivers.

Because of this, it’s important to stay sharp and be prepared. Knowing the ins and outs of black ice will help you stay safe on the road. Keep your eyes peeled and drive cautiously, especially during icy conditions.

How to respond to a black ice skid

In the event of a black ice skid, follow these steps to regain control and stay safe:

  • Stay calm and avoid panic, maintaining composure to make effective decisions.
  • Release the accelerator pedal to reduce speed and minimize the chances of further skidding.
  • Steer gently toward the skid, allowing the wheels to regain traction gradually.
  • Avoid sudden braking, which can cause the vehicle to skid further or lose control.
  • Regain control gradually by making smooth and controlled steering and braking adjustments.

How to break on icy roads

Knowing how to brake effectively is essential for your safety when it comes to icy roads. This section explores valuable techniques to help you regain control and stay safe on icy surfaces. 

By following these tips, you’ll be better prepared to handle the challenges of braking on icy roads.

1. Stay calm and composed

When encountering icy roads, it’s essential to maintain a calm and composed mindset. Panic can hinder your ability to react effectively.

2. Assess the road for black ice or slippery patches

Scan the road ahead for any signs of black ice or areas with reduced traction. Adjust your braking strategy accordingly.

3. Increase your braking distance

Allow for a greater distance between your vehicle and the one in front to compensate for reduced traction. This provides more time to brake safely.

4. Apply gentle pressure to the brake pedal

Avoid sudden, hard braking. Instead, apply steady and gentle pressure to the brake pedal for better control.

5. Pump the brakes if your vehicle doesn’t have ABS

In non-ABS equipped cars, use a technique called “pumping” the brakes. Apply and release pressure to prevent wheel lock-up.

6. Utilize ABS if your vehicle is equipped with it

If your car has an anti-lock braking system (ABS), maintain firm pressure on the brake pedal. The ABS will modulate braking force to prevent wheel lock-up.

7. Look for areas with better traction

Identify road sections with improved traction, such as dry pavement or tracks left by previous vehicles.

8. Avoid abrupt turns while braking

When braking on icy roads, steer smoothly and avoid sharp or sudden turns that may cause your vehicle to skid.

9. Steer into a skid if it occurs

If your vehicle starts to skid, gently turn the steering wheel toward the skid to regain control.

10. Focus on regaining control of the vehicle

Stay focused on regaining control of your car. Keep your eyes on the road and steer with purpose.

How to accelerate on snowy roads

In snowy conditions, mastering the art of acceleration is crucial for a safe and controlled drive. This section provides valuable techniques to navigate snowy roads confidently. 

By following these guidelines, you’ll be equipped to accelerate smoothly and maintain stability, ensuring a safer journey in wintry conditions. 

(If you want to know how to accelerate on icy roads, these instructions will help you too.)

1. Apply gentle pressure to the accelerator pedal

Exercise finesse when accelerating on snowy roads by gently pressing the accelerator pedal for a smoother start.

2. Accelerate slowly and steadily

Avoid sudden bursts of acceleration. Instead, gradually increase your speed to maintain control on the slippery surface.

3. Increase following distance

Give yourself extra space between your vehicle and the one ahead to account for longer braking distances on snowy roads.

4. Keep traction control engaged

Ensure your vehicle’s traction control system is activated to maximize grip and stability during acceleration.

5. Avoid rapid gear shifts

Shift gears smoothly and avoid rapid changes to maintain traction and prevent wheelspin.

6. Brake gently and progressively

When slowing down, apply the brakes gently and progressively to avoid skidding or losing control of your vehicle.

7. Utilize low gear for starting on snowy roads

Engage a lower gear, such as “2” or “L,” when starting from a standstill on snowy or icy roads for better control.

8. Apply slightly more pressure when accelerating uphill

When climbing uphill on snowy roads, apply a slightly firmer pressure on the accelerator pedal to maintain momentum.

9. Use traction aids if available

If your vehicle has features like snow mode or traction control settings, use them for enhanced traction and stability.

Do you need snow tires? 

When it comes to winter driving, the choice of tires can significantly impact your safety on the road. Snow tires, also known as winter tires, are designed to provide enhanced traction and grip on snowy and icy surfaces.

Investing in snow tires is highly recommended if you live in an area with frequent snowfall or encounter icy conditions during the winter season. These specialized tires feature unique tread patterns and softer rubber compounds, allowing them to maintain better traction in cold temperatures and grip slippery surfaces.

Snow tires excel in snowy, slushy, and icy conditions, offering improved braking, cornering, and acceleration performance compared to all-season or summer tires. They provide better control and help reduce the risk of skidding or getting stuck. Equipping your vehicle with snow tires can significantly enhance your safety and peace of mind when driving in winter weather.

Prepare your vehicle for winter driving

To ensure a safe and smooth winter driving experience, take these essential steps to prepare your vehicle:

  • Check tire tread and condition, ensuring sufficient grip for snowy and icy conditions.
  • Ensure proper tire pressure to optimize traction and handling.
  • Test the battery and electrical system to avoid unexpected breakdowns in cold weather.
  • Maintain adequate windshield wiper fluid and functioning wipers for clear visibility.
  • Carry essential winter emergency supplies, including a snow shovel, ice scraper, blankets, and a first aid kit.

Defensive driving techniques for winter driving

When driving in winter conditions, employ these defensive driving techniques to stay safe:

  • Increase your awareness of surrounding vehicles, keeping a safe distance and anticipating their actions.
  • Anticipate and avoid hazards such as icy patches, sudden stops, or skidding vehicles.
  • Stay cautious at intersections and in traffic, allowing extra time to react to changing road conditions.
  • Watch out for other drivers’ actions, remaining alert for erratic behavior or loss of control.

Tips for driving uphill on snowy roads

When tackling snowy uphill roads, employ these tips to maintain control and reach your destination safely:

  • Maintain a steady speed and momentum, avoiding sudden changes that may result in loss of traction.
  • Avoid sudden acceleration or deceleration, as it can cause your wheels to spin or skid on the slippery surface.
  • Use lower gears for better traction, allowing your vehicle to climb uphill with more stability and control.
  • Keep a safe distance from other vehicles to provide ample maneuvering space and avoid potential collisions.


What happens if you drive on black ice?

Driving on black ice is extremely hazardous, resulting in loss of control, increased stopping distance, difficulty steering, and accidents. Stay vigilant and drive cautiously in icy conditions.

How fast should you drive on black ice?

When driving on black ice, you should actively reduce your speed significantly. It’s crucial to go at a slow and controlled speed, well below the posted speed limit, 

This gives you better control and the time to respond effectively in case of unexpected skidding or loss of traction. Prioritize caution and adjust your speed according to the road conditions and visibility to ensure your safety on black ice.

How slow should you drive on black ice?

When driving on black ice, it’s crucial to maintain a slow and controlled speed, prioritizing caution and ensuring safety. Adjust your speed based on road conditions and exercise judgment to drive as slow as possible while maintaining control.

Should you break if you hit black ice?

If you hit black ice while driving, avoiding sudden or hard braking is important. 

Instead, focus on maintaining control of the vehicle by keeping a firm grip on the steering wheel and releasing the accelerator pedal. 

Braking on black ice could cause the wheels to lock up, leading to skidding or losing control. It is best to allow the vehicle to naturally slow down while gently steering toward the skid until the tires regain traction. 

When should I be worried about black ice?

You should be concerned about black ice when temperatures drop below or near freezing, and moisture is present on the road. Black ice typically forms during these conditions, especially in shaded areas, bridges, overpasses, and areas with little sunlight.

When do you need chains on your tires?

Chains on tires are typically needed in snowy or icy conditions when traction is severely compromised. They provide additional grip and help improve traction when driving on slippery surfaces. 

It’s recommended to use tire chains when local authorities or road signs mandate their use or when road conditions are hazardous due to heavy snow or ice. Additionally, chains may be required in mountainous areas or during extreme winter weather conditions. 

Always check local regulations and weather reports to determine whether chains are necessary for your driving circumstances.

Get car insurance to cover damage from black ice accidents

Applying the tips and techniques mentioned can reduce risks on black ice. Remember, comprehensive car insurance provides essential financial protection for unforeseen events, including accidents caused by slippery road conditions. Stay informed, stay safe, and drive with confidence this winter.

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