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Tips on Avoiding Black Ice Accidents this Winter

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Key Takeaways:

  • Black ice develops as a thin water layer solidifies on top of pre-existing ice, resulting in a surface that is sleek and resembles glass.
  • Conditions that lead to black ice formation include early morning dew, freezing rain, sustained freezing temperatures after precipitation, and car condensation.
  • Black ice causes car accidents and slip-and-fall accidents each year in Buffalo, New York.
  • If you have been injured in a black ice accident and someone else was at fault, speak to a lawyer about securing compensation.

Winter is rapidly approaching Buffalo, New York, meaning both drivers and pedestrians will need to be on the lookout for black ice. This dangerous surface condition leads to numerous problems, ranging from slip-and-fall accidents to car accidents, causing catastrophic injuries and property damage. Particularly bad accidents can even lead to business disruptions.

Black ice forms when a thin layer of water freezes over existing ice, which makes the surface smooth and glass-like. Its appearance is difficult to detect, which is why so many are caught off-guard by black ice. By taking proactive steps to prevent skid accidents caused by black ice, you can avoid mishaps and keep people safe. At The Coppola Firm, our Buffalo car accident attorneys have gathered some helpful safety tips for avoiding black ice accidents this winter.

Identifying Black Ice in New York

Black ice is difficult to identify because it blends in with the roads’ dark asphalt. Fortunately, there are a few warning signs for which you can keep an eye out.

Conditions That Lead to Black Ice

Black ice is a new layer of ice that sits on top of older ice, and it is completely clear. Conditions that lead to this formation include early morning temperatures combined with dew and fog. Sleet rain or freezing rain on a pavement surface can also lead to black ice. Even condensation dripping from a car’s exhaust can form black ice on the road’s surface.

Identifying Black Ice on Your New York Property

Black ice is virtually invisible, as it is completely clear. Identifying it typically only comes when falling victim to it. This type of ice is notably slippery, so lack of traction is a reasonable indicator of black ice’s presence. During the winter, remain highly aware of the current weather conditions and adjust appropriately, whether that means working from home or changing your car’s tires for the season.

Where Black Ice Forms

Typically, black ice forms in the following areas:

  • Roads that do not receive much traffic
  • Bridges and overpasses: Bridges are especially susceptible because cold air can cool both the top and bottom of the roadway, leading to fast temperature drops.
  • Parking lots
  • Driveways

Tips for Driving on Black Ice in Buffalo, NY

car broken down on the side of a snowy New York highway

While avoiding black ice altogether is ideal, its transparency sometimes forces you to drive over it before you realize that it is black ice. In these scenarios, it is important to keep certain winter driving tips in mind to minimize the risk of having a collision due to losing control of your vehicle on the ice.

  • Disable cruise control.
  • Reduce your speed.
  • Keep the steering wheel straight.
  • Avoid slamming on breaks.
  • Utilize lower gears.
  • Avoid driving on roads with shiny spots.
  • Steer into low-impact areas.

Let’s further evaluate each tip.

1. Turn Off Cruise Control and Reduce Your Speed

Do not use cruise control when driving on black ice because you want to be able to minimize your speed. Just be careful not to slow down too rapidly, as that could also lead to you losing control. In most cases, you should not be using the gas pedal at all.

2. Keep the Steering Wheel Straight

It can be tempting to turn sharply if you start to drift, but this kind of overcorrection can make the vehicle more difficult to control. Your best bet is to keep the steering wheel straight and avoid sudden movements.

3. Do Not Slam the Brakes

Slamming on the brake pedal will only cause you to slide on black ice rather than slow down. This may be your instinctual reaction because it is typically reliable in dry conditions with antilock brakes, but it does not work on black ice.

4. Shift Into Low Gear

Ice driving should only be done at low speeds, so make sure you shift into a lower gear to account for that.

5. Head for an Area of Traction

Remember that black ice is identifiable as puddles or shiny spots on the road. If you see a spot that is noticeably not shiny or see other cars driving in an area without sliding, reaching that area of traction should be your goal.

6. Try to Stay Calm

A clear head can be one of your best assets for traversing black ice. Remain calm and concentrate on what you have to do to minimize the risk of an accident.

7. Steer Into a Low-Impact Area

To reduce the chance of an accident or at least minimize damage, try to steer into a low-impact area like a gentle snowbank. Keep in mind that any steering should be subtle and gradual, as sharp maneuvers will only lead to less control on black ice.

With these tips in mind, you will be better equipped to keep yourself and your passengers safe when encountering black ice.

Tips for Avoiding Personal Injury Due to Black Ice on Sidewalks

Driving is not the only scenario in which you may encounter black ice. You will need to watch out when walking on sidewalks, too.

Plan Ahead for the New York Winter Weather

With winter approaching, black ice is sure to follow, and it can cause more than just poor driving conditions. Because of this, it is important to think twice about running on sidewalks. Take your time when walking, and remain vigilant. Footwear that resists slipping is ideal. If you own a business in a brick-and-mortar building, make sure you take precautions for your customers by salting your sidewalks to prevent black ice from forming.

Be Careful in Icy Conditions

Icy conditions can cause trouble for pedestrians and drivers alike. Be careful when you step out of your car, and make sure to use the handrails whenever you are traversing stairs. Entrances to buildings can also be slippery, so use caution when entering and exiting places.

Watch for Patches of Ice on Walkways

In New York, places with high foot traffic are typically salted to prevent ice from forming as a black ice safety measure. Because of this, designated walkways are typically much safer than any shortcuts you may want to take. Even so, you should remain vigilant and avoid distractions like texting on your phone. If you feel that you are slipping, shuffling can help you find stability.

Documenting a Weather-Related Car Accident or Personal Injury

If you do fall victim to a patch of black ice, it is helpful for your case to gather as much evidence as possible. Be sure to take pictures of the area where you suffered your injury, highlighting hazards like black ice, uncleared snow, or poor visibility due to fog. Fog can especially play a role in black ice accidents because it simultaneously reduces visibility and leads to the formation of black ice. Document the time of your accident so you can get weather reports to corroborate your story as well.

Determining Liability in New York for Weather-Related Personal Injury and Car Accidents

caution black ice sign

When it comes to liability in personal injury law for accidents related to weather conditions, you will have to consider several factors. These include:

  • Weather conditions at the time of the accident
  • Sidewalk/road conditions at the time of the accident
  • The driver’s accident history
  • Traffic signs and signals present
  • Eyewitness accounts
  • Police reports

Icy Conditions

Insurance companies will consider the weather conditions at the time of an accident because icy conditions increase the likelihood of an accident.

Sidewalk and Road Conditions

The surface of the road or sidewalk where the accident took place plays a major role in determining liability, whether you are dealing with holes in the surface or ice patches on icy roads.

Driver History

The history of motorists involved in the accident can affect how liability is determined because drivers who have caused accidents in the past are considered to be more at risk for accidents in the future.

Traffic Signs and Signals

Drivers are always expected to abide by traffic signs and signals, but it is especially important in inclement weather conditions.


Eyewitness accounts of the accident can help determine liability by detailing the sequence of events from an outside perspective.

Police Reports

The official police report of an accident details whether any road violations were committed by the drivers involved, which helps determine liability.

Consult a New York Personal Injury Attorney

To truly determine liability in an accident, you will need to contact a New York personal injury attorney, as they will have the necessary tools to help.

Were You Injured in a Weather-Related Accident in Buffalo, NY?

If you or a loved one was involved in a recent black ice accident, The Coppola Firm can help. Our personal injury lawyers stand ready to help with your case by offering legal advice, legal representation, and a communicative attorney-client relationship. Let’s take the next step together. Just call 716-839-9700 or fill out our online contact form for a free consultation with our Buffalo, New York law firm.

Lisa Coppola

Written by Lisa Coppola

Founder of The Coppola Firm

Lisa A. Coppola, Esq. understands the challenges her clients face, whether they’re starting a new business, taking their existing operations in a new direction, or facing a claim or threat.

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