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"Black" ice is clear water that has frozen on dark roadways, presenting a hidden trap for motorists
who cannot see the slick pavement. Black ice is particularly prevalent on bridges, below overpasses
and in areas surrounded by trees.

"The possibility of encountering black ice is greatest when temperatures are near or below freezing."
Because road surfaces can freeze long before water freezes (road surfaces can freeze when air
temperatures are as warm as 40 degrees F), drivers may think the shiny road surface is water, until
their tires start to slip and it's too late.

Black ice can form even when it's not raining or snowing. In freezing areas of the United States,
condensation from dew on roadways will freeze, forming a thin layer of ice that creates one of the
slickest road conditions there is. Even in areas that aren't accustomed to freezing temperatures, such
as the Gulf Coast and Southeast, a sudden blast of cold air from the north can quickly freeze and
leave roadways very slick.

It is because black ice can form so quickly and is so camouflaged on the road that Occupational
Safety and Health Administration officials call it the deadliest of all winter driving hazards. Here's
what to look out for:

       Pavement that looks dry but appears darker in color

       Low-lying areas that may have water runoff from nearby trees or land

       Bridges, which typically freeze first

       Underpasses and other road areas that are shaded form the sun

       Air temperatures that fall below 40 degrees F (expect icy conditions)

There are some precautions you can take to lessen your chances of coming into harms way. These

                                                                 Good tires with treading that is not
       Traction, traction, traction. Good tires can
        mean all the difference when you hit an icy patch.      worn are critical for safe driving in any
        Consider switching to snow tires, and at the very                  type of weather!
        least make sure your existing tires are in good

       Engage four-wheel drive. If you have it, you can use it, but don't let it make you overly
        confident. Four-wheel drive will NOT keep your car from sliding on ice if you are driving
        too fast for conditions.

       Slow down. Drive cautiously and don't overestimate the safety of road conditions.

       Don't tailgate. That extra car length can mean all the difference if you lose traction and
        can't stop.

       Keep your windshield clean. Ice can be hard to see in the best of conditions, but if your
        windows are dirty or covered in snow and ice, the chances that you'll see an icy patch are

       Anticipate traffic lights and intersections. Give yourself longer braking distances than
        normal. That extra time to slow down can make all the difference if your car starts to slide
        out of control.

       Wear your seatbelt!

If you hit a patch of ice, here are some tips to help stay in control:

       Slow down, but don't brake too quickly. This could lock your brakes and cause you to lose
        traction completely.

       Instead, decelerate by taking your foot slowly off the accelerator, and shift the car to neutral
        or de-clutch (manual transmission).

       Make smooth steering movements, not jerky turns, and, in the event your car starts to spin,
        turn your wheel in the direction the spin.

       If the car is skidding, turn the wheel in the direction you want the car to go.

       If your car has anti-lock brakes, do not remove your foot from the brake pedal or pump the
        break. The system should keep the brakes from locking while allowing you to steer and
        continue to slow down the vehicle.


It doesn't matter how skilled you are at driving if you can't see where you're going. Lack of visibility
is one of the top reasons for winter driving accidents. Snow, slush, ice, rain and salt can combine
into a literal blindfold for your car's windshield if you don't take these precautions:
       Take the time to clear all snow and ice from windows, mirrors and headlights before driving
        (invest in a high-quality snow brush/ice scraper for this purpose).

       Make sure windshield wipers are in top form all year round.

       Keep your washer fluid filled, and make sure the fluid has antifreeze capabilities (not all do).

       Make sure your car's front and rear defrosters are working on windows.

       Drive at least eight seconds behind snowplows to avoid accidents and spray from snow and
       Carry de-icing solution in your trunk just in case. Save money by making your own using a
        mixture of half water and half vinegar.

       Leave space between the cars around you (spray from other cars is one of the most common
        barriers to visibility.


The most obvious advice is not to hit the road at all during a blizzard, but if one strikes while you're
out on the road:

       Pull off the highway if lack of visibility poses any risk at all; make sure you pull as far off the
        highway as possible to avoid rear-end collisions from any oncoming vehicles.

       Stay calm and remain in your vehicle except for the absolutely necessary reasons defined
        below. Make sure you have an Auto Emergency Kit and hat, gloves and outerwear on-hand.

       Set your directional lights to "flashing" and place the reflective triangles and other
        notification signals from your Auto Emergency Kit around your car so that oncoming
        vehicles can steer clear of you and police and other assistance vehicles can easily locate you.
        If you have no other warning signals, tie a piece of brightly colored cloth to your antenna.

       Run the engine to keep warm, but do so only for about 10 minutes each hour. Be sure to
        create ventilation by cracking open a window during this time. This will protect passengers
        from possible carbon monoxide poisoning. Periodically clear away snow from the exhaust
        pipe for this reason as well.

       Exercise to maintain body heat, but avoid overexertion.

       Huddle together for warmth, and wiggle fingers and toes regularly to check for hypothermia
        or frostbite.

       Never let everyone in the car sleep at once. One person should look out for rescue crews.

       Be careful not to use up battery power. Balance electrical energy needs -- the use of lights,
        heat and radio -- with supply.

As a battery ages, it loses its ability to provide current in low temperatures. This is why battery
failure is one of the most common winter driving hazards, particularly in freezing temperatures.

       Check to make sure your car's battery is in good condition.

       Clean the lead connections and tighten them securely.

       If your battery is old, invest in a new one before winter starts.

       If battery failure does occur, have a power source available in your car for easy on-the-spot
        jumping. The Century 12 Volt Power Source delivers 900 peak amps that can start cars,
        trucks and Rvs in emergencies. It retains its charge for about six months and comes fully

       At the very least, invest in a good set of jumper cables that can get you out of a bind, such as
        the top-rated Coleman Cable Systems 08665 12' Heavy Duty 4-Gauge Jumper Cables, which
        will not tangle and provides sufficient length to stretch between cars.


One of the most frightening winter scenarios is to be stranded along an interstate or some remote or
unknown area due to your car breaking down or getting stuck in a ditch. The Boy Scouts of America
motto stands true here ... Be Prepared!

Equip your car with an emergency car kit. The best value we have found is a 50-Piece Auto
Emergency Kit that contains all the essentials in a convenient 20" x 15" carrying case, such as:

       Reflective triangles to get the attention of emergency vehicles and steer oncoming traffic
        clear of you (all too common are injuries and deaths from oncoming vehicles hitting
        pedestrians on the side of the road, so such devices are necessary)

       Replacement automotive fuses

       First Aid kit

       Multi-function Lantern/Flashlight

       A variety of tools

       Heavy-duty jumper cables

       Air compressor

It is also wise to carry a charged cell phone or other communication device with you, especially
when driving long distances or to unfamiliar areas, so that you can call for emergency assistance.

       Keep extra gloves, hats, outerwear and a blanket in the car to stay warm.
       In freezing temperatures, many people die each year when they leave their vehicle in an
        attempt to walk to safety in remote regions, according to the National Weather Service.
        Stranded drivers should stay with the car to wait for help instead, remaining warm by:

       Layering clothing on, including the extra outwear and blanket

       Moving the arms and legs often to maintain circulation

       Running the engine to keep warm for about 10 minutes each hour. Be sure to create
        ventilation by cracking open a window during this time. This will protect passengers from
        possible carbon monoxide poisoning. Periodically clear away snow from the exhaust pipe for
        this reason as well.

If a stranger offers to drive you somewhere to get emergency help, it is recommended that you
instead request that they drive there on your behalf and request the help while you remain with your

If there are more than one of you in the car, keep the entire party together at all times. This provides
both warmth and greater security.

If you routinely drive in very remote areas where emergency vehicle traffic may be sparse, consider
investing in a complete flare gun for your vehicle

       Also see the advice for the #3 item above on blizzards


If you accidentally slide off the road or in some other way find your tires trapped in snow or mud,
here are the best solutions to set your auto free:

       Keep a shovel and bag of sand, salt or cat litter in your trunk. Use the shovel to dig out snow
        from around your tires, then sprinkle sand (cat litter or salt also works) in front of them to
        create traction.

       Try to slowly ease out of the spot without spinning the wheels (accelerating hard will usually
        just dig deeper ruts).

       If wheels spin, stop immediately and let tires cool before starting again.

       Try rocking the vehicle. To do this, shift to second gear or low gear (automatic transmission)
        and move forward. When the car cannot go any farther, take your foot off the accelerator
        and as the car rolls back, accelerate slightly. Repeating these steps rapidly can often free the
        car (but be careful to use gentle acceleration to avoid getting stuck further).

       Especially in cold weather regions, make sure you always travel with an Auto Emergency Kit
        (see item 5 above) and hats, gloves and outerwear

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