Winter has officially arrived in Pennsylvania. With winter comes cold weather, which can often lead to car accidents. In Philadelphia, inclement weather conditions such as snow, sleet and icy rain are leading factors of winter-time collisions.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, the weather can have a significant impact on driver safety. On average, there are 219,942 car accidents each year in the United States due to snow and sleet. Snowy or slushy pavement causes an average of 186,076 crashes annually. Across the country, icy pavement leads to 156,164 car accidents — along with an average of 41,860 people injured and 521 people killed.
As demonstrated by these statistics, winter weather conditions are responsible for a high number of car accidents, injuries and fatalities each year. This includes a condition that is relatively common throughout the Philadelphia region: icy streets.
While any type of ice buildup on our roadways can be challenging, one of the most difficult weather conditions that we deal with in the Philadelphia region is black ice. That is because it this type of ice is incredibly difficult to see, so drivers do not spot it until it is too late — leading to accidents.
Causes of Black Ice
Black ice forms most frequently when the air is at or below 32 degrees and it is raining. The comparatively low ground temperature causes the rain to freeze when it hits the ground, which creates the ice. Alternatively, sleet and melting snow that runs onto roadways can also cause black ice.
Black ice gets its name because it is so thin that it is reflective, and typically reflects the color of the road. Although it is called black ice, it is actually clear. As a result, drivers pass over black ice without realizing that the conditions are icy. This can lead to drivers spinning out of control or even crashing.
How to Spot Black Ice
One of the biggest challenges of driving in the Philadelphia metro region in winter is that it is very difficult to spot dangers like black ice. Understanding how and when black ice typically forms can help you avoid these patches of ice — and keep you safe on the roadways.
Many of us rely on the thermometer built into our cars to keep us up-to-date on the weather and road conditions. Yet doing so will likely give you a false sense of security. While our car thermometers are helpful, they are not necessarily accurate. The best way to know if the roads may be icy, according to a Philadelphia car accident attorney, is to check the weather before you head out to drive.
Black ice typically forms between sunset and sunrise, when temperatures are usually at their lowest. This can make your morning commute the riskiest time for black ice. When you are driving, watch for patches of pavement that appear dark and glossy. If the pavement is otherwise dry, those patches are likely black ice.
Black ice most commonly appears in shaded or tree-covered parts of driveways or roads, on bridges or overpasses. If you do encounter black ice, remain calm and allow your vehicle to pass over it without panicking.
Preventing Black Ice Accidents
Black ice accidents can be hard to prevent when it is so challenging to see it on the road. However, there are certain steps that you can take to minimize the likelihood of being involved in a Philadelphia car accident involving black ice.
First, always leave a cushion of at least 5 seconds between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of yours. It takes twice as long to stop on black ice as on dry pavement, so giving yourself this extra time will help to prevent an accident.
Second, if you do hit black ice, hold your steering wheel steady. Never hit the brakes to avoid skidding.
Third, be careful in the early morning, such as during your commute, when the air temperature tends to rise faster than the pavement temperature. This is prime time for black ice formation.
Fourth, watch for black ice on bridges, overpasses, and in tunnels. The lower temperatures in these structures may allow for black ice to form — and we have many bridges and overpasses in and around Philadelphia.
Fifth, if you feel your car sliding on black ice, do not overcorrect your steering. Instead, gently turn your steering wheel into the direction that you are skidding as you ease off the accelerator. That will help you get your car back on track — and avoid an accident.
Work with a Philadelphia Car Accident Attorney
The lawyers of Solnick & Associates are here for victims of car accidents. We have devoted our practice to helping clients who have been injured due to the negligence of others. We work collaboratively with our clients to help them achieve their goals, giving them peace of mind in knowing that they can focus on their recovery while we handle the legal process.
If you have been hurt in a car accident, we can help. We offer free initial consultations to all prospective clients so that you can understand your rights and options. To learn more or to schedule an appointment with a Philadelphia car accident attorney, contact our office today at 877-415-6495 or via our online portal.