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One of the most dangerous and frightening road surfaces to have to drive on is black ice, which can form in any conditions when temperatures drop down to freezing, including snow, rain and fog.

The best way of learning how to drive on black ice is to take an advanced driving course on a skid patch and learn how the car will feel and how you should react when driving on black ice.

Generally it is recommended that motorists steer into skids before trying to steer out of them again – but remember that any sudden movement of the wheel or hitting the brakes could cause the car to jack knife, or send it into a spin and potentially into the path of another vehicle.

Letting go of the accelerator and allowing the car to move over the ice with the least resistance but with hands firmly holding the wheel in place is usually recommended, until you feel the tyres engage with the road again and can begin steering carefully.

Pumping brakes as you skid can sometimes give you more grip on a patch of black ice – ABS brakes will pump automatically with firm pressure underfoot.

Black ice is also hard to spot because it is clear and may take on a dark appearance in some lighting conditions, especially at night, when it can appear on the road ahead quite suddenly in moonlight or headlights. Often you can only see black ice once it is too late to take remedial action to avoid it, so knowing what to do if you hit a patch is essential for drivers.

Switching on your lights and scanning the ground in front of you before you set off can help detect it, but once on the road you may not see it, so take care, especially in the chill of the early morning or at night when temperatures drop and ground moisture starts to freeze.

Black ice can form anywhere, from your own driveway to the motorway, so here are some tips to help you get an idea of how to tackle driving on black ice.

Anticipating black ice can give you an advantage, so if the thermometer dips down to freezing point, gear yourself up for encountering a patch of black ice and that way you will be well prepared.

Be alert – it is no good reversing gingerly out of your driveway and down the road, and then getting blasé if everyone else is going at speed. If temperatures are hovering around freezing, or it has snowed or rained and frozen again, it is likely you will hit black ice a some point, especially if there are frozen pools of water at the edges of the road or in dips in the road, which indicate ground moisture has frozen.

Change down to a low gear if you suddenly find yourself gliding over black ice, as this will give you more control as you steer into the slide – keep everything steady until the ice patch ends, as black ice does not usually cover more than about 5m of a stretch of road at a one time.

Drive slowly and carefully when the temperatures dip – if roads are snowy the snow may compact into black ice if the temperature drops overnight or it rains and then freezes again. Black ice can also lie beneath snow if fresh snow falls onto frozen roads, so take your time and keep a lookout – if other cars are sliding it is likely black ice is underfoot. Hitting black ice at speed will only make the job of stabilising your car more difficult, so take it easy, especially on little used roads and rural roads.

Expect to feel shaken after an encounter with black ice – being completely out of control of your vehicle is a scary business and not one you will have to deal with very often, so pull over and take a break once you are out of the skid. Head for the nearest services for coffee if you continue to feel shaken. Then book your advanced driving course if you haven’t already done so.

Remember to keep an ice scraper in your car, as keeping your windscreen as clear and clean as possible will help you spot black ice ahead. If you live in a rural area, you may consider snow tyres for winter, which will give more traction. Make sure your tyres have plenty of tread on them if you have not got snow tyres – worn tyres will make any skids much worse, so getting new tyres for the winter months is advisable to prevent car accidents if you hit black ice.

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