AAA: Watch for black ice as snow, sleet continues to fall


    (Mary Jordan)<p>{/p}

    LYNCHBURG, Va. (WSET) -- As snow and sleet continue to fall, AAA warns that the combination can results in dangerous winter driving conditions.

    "Snow, sleet and rain combined with temperatures hovering around the freezing mark can result in layers of ice, topped with snow that are deceiving and extremely dangerous," said Martha Mitchell Meade, Manager Public and Government Affairs for AAA. "Drivers are urged to use extreme caution where precipitation of any kind is expected to fall and to avoid assuming that snowy roadways or those that appear wet are free from ice or safe."

    As the precipitation changes throughout the day and into Monday, it can also result in different road conditions in various areas across the state.

    "The storm hitting the commonwealth today will produce a variety of roadways conditions which may change quickly and become treacherous just as fast," added Meade.

    Conditions are favorable for black ice, which can be invisible to the naked eye after it forms on the roadways.

    Black ice commonly forms on highly shaded areas, infrequently traveled roads, and on bridges and overpasses. In most cases, the ice appears to be the color of wet, dark asphalt, catching drivers’ off-guard and in potentially frightening situations.

    "The best advice is to stay put and wait until the storm passes and road conditions improve. If you must drive, do so with extreme caution, slow down and increase following distances to at least 10 seconds to allow enough margin of safety between you and other drivers," advised Meade.

    AAA provides the following safe driving tips for motorists:

    • Watch for black ice. Although it is mostly invisible, pavement with black ice will be a little darker and duller than the rest of the road surface.
    • Use extra caution on bridges and overpasses. Bridges and overpasses freeze first and melt last. Therefore, use extra caution as the roadway leading up to the bridge may appear fine but the bridge itself could be a sheet of ice.
    • Travel gently. Drive, turn, and brake slowly. Adjust your speed to the road conditions and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.
    • Be extra aware of the traffic ahead. If you see brake lights, fish tailing cars, sideways cars or emergency flashers, slow down even more.
    • Control the skid. If you are approaching a patch of ice, brake during your approach. Applying pressure to your brakes while on ice will only throw you into a skid. In the event you find your car is skidding, ease off of the accelerator or brake, and steer in the direction you want the front of the car to go.
    • If your car doesn’t have anti-lock brakes, you need to use the following threshold braking technique: Squeeze the brake pedal with your toes, and, when you feel the wheels begin to lock, ease off the pressure slightly and hold it there.
    • Guard against SUV overconfidence. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are great for initial traction and avoiding getting stuck, but once they are moving, they have the same difficulty keeping control and stopping as other vehicles.
    • Never use cruise control. Cruise control is not recommended when ice is on the road as the driver should be in full control of the vehicle at every second.
    • Drive in cleared lanes. Changing lanes unnecessarily puts you at greater risk of hitting a patch of ice between lanes that may cause you to lose control of the vehicle.

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