Drivers' Corner - Caring in Action

Have you ever driven through "black ice"? There is a strip on I-35 West just south of Fort Worth that is considered an ice belt. It is about 500 yards long and cuts across the interstate at a 45% angle. During the winter, if it is raining everywhere else, it will be freezing in that area.

An 18-wheeler traveling south on a winter afternoon entered the area and started to pass a four-wheeler when he lost control. He slid across the median, ending upside down on the other side of the interstate. His freight was packaged beef and was scattered in every direction. The driver sustained numerous injuries and had to be off work for six months.

The strip extends from I-35 West diagonally across to Wichita Falls, Texas, and is responsible for many accidents during the winter months. There are areas like this all across America. You will be traveling along normally and suddenly you will be on ice without notice. These areas are most commonly referred to as "black ice" because the thin sheen of ice takes on the color of the highway and cannot be seen.

Some actions to take to avoid accidents under these conditions are:

  1. Understand that seasonal changes mean that you are likely to encounter ice almost anywhere, especially if the weather report indicates freezing temperatures. Just because the road is running wet and slushy is no reason to assume that the entire road is wet and slushy.
  2. Watch the vehicle tires in front of you. If the road appears to be wet, but there is no spray coming from their tires, it usually means you are on ice.
  3. Talk with other drivers at truck stops and on the road with your CB radio. Find out if anyone is experiencing difficulties along your route. Check with your dispatcher for information. Ask for and listen for road condition reports on trucker radio channels.

Bottom line: Even after gathering all the information - proceed with caution!