Area officials warn drivers of 'black ice'

Sunday, December 9, 2007

With the arrival of snow and freezing rain, officials urge drivers to pay attention to the driving hazards that winter weather can create.

"Unfortunately, when the first snow comes, people forget how to drive in the weather conditions," Clay County Sheriff Mike Heaton said. "People need to pay attention to the weather, allow extra travel time, slow down, be courteous to other drivers, and always wear their seat belts."

Winter weather creates driving conditions that call for different driving tactics.

Both Heaton and Brazil City Police Chief Terry Harrison urge drivers to pay special attention to bridges and overpasses while driving.

Ice that has frozen without many air bubbles trapped inside, making it appear transparent, is called black ice. Black ice takes on the color of wet asphalt, usually occurring around bridges and overpasses, that makes it a significant hazard to drivers.

"Usually, it's too late when you see it to stop," Harrison said. "Drivers just need to take it slow while driving in winter weather -- drive at a slower speed, slower acceleration, slower steering, and slower braking. Give yourself extra time to react when driving, so you can arrive at your destination safely. It's not worth putting yourself, or others, in danger just to be on time."

With a Clear Roads campaign slogan of "Ice and Snow, Take it Slow, or just don't go," The Indiana Department of Transportation offers other tips for Hoosier families to be safe during winter driving:

* Safe drivers know the weather, and their driving limits, which is why INDOT urges that before motorists leave home they take the time to find out about the weather and the driving conditions they may face on the way to their destination,

* Drivers need to be able to see while driving and vehicles need to be seen by other motorists on the roadway. INDOT urges motorists to remove any snow on a vehicle's windows, lights, brake lights and signals,

* Having a vehicle breakdown is bad on a good day and dangerous on a bad-weather day. INDOT urges motorists to perform a winter check of their vehicle, making sure that its tires, wiper blades, fluids, lights, belts and hoses are in working order, and

* Always remember to leave plenty of time to reach a destination safely.

Another problem is the potential false sense of security that a four-wheel drive vehicle or a sports utility vehicle (SUV) can give some winter drivers. A four-wheel drive vehicle is designed to maneuver easier and faster in difficult driving conditions, but they are not designed to stop sooner.

Both Heaton and Harrison urge drivers to drive slowly on snow and ice, no matter what type of vehicle a motorist is driving.

"Even if you have an SUV with four-wheel drive it may not be able to stop any faster, or maintain control any better once you lose traction," Harrison said. "The faster you are driving, the longer it will take you to slow down and stop."

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