In Maine, black ice is a notorious risk once winter begins and temperatures drop below freezing. What makes it especially dangerous is its deceptive appearance. As you approach, it looks like a wet or recently paved stretch of road, so you don’t even realize that you’ve hit a thin layer of ice until it’s too late and you’re sliding off the road or into another motorist. For this reason, Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials call it one of the deadliest of all winter driving hazards.
Black ice has been a factor in several recent crashes on state roads and highways. On a single chaotic morning in November, the Somerset County Communications Center in Skowhegan reported 85 incidents of cars colliding with other vehicles or sliding off the road due to the formation of black ice on Interstate 95. The Messalonskee Bridge was even closed temporarily after four accidents occurred one after the other.
More recently, on December 12 black ice on the 295 turned everyone’s afternoon commute into a chaotic mess. An AAA representative confirmed that calls for roadside assistance were practically non-stop from noon onwards, with an average of 100 calls every half-hour.
Travelling This Winter Season
If you’re planning on traveling to see friends and family this holiday season, you’ll have a lot of company on the road. AAA once estimated that during the Christmas and New Year’s season, nearly 95 million people drove long distances to visit loved ones. When black ice is added to the equation, you have a potentially dangerous situation.
Even when road conditions are hazardous, motorists still have a duty of care to use reasonable caution while driving. This includes:
- Constant vigilance when weather is conducive to black ice formation
- Avoiding distractions like smartphones
- Maintaining a safe distance from any vehicles ahead
If you’re driving in areas where a black ice warning is in effect, be on the lookout for stretches of road where the pavement looks wet or especially dark, and be particularly careful in areas that are shaded from the sun, such as bridge underpasses or streets in the shadow of tall buildings.
Tips for Safe Travel
If you plan to travel this holiday season, we encourage you to use these tips to help ensure a safe trip.
- Wear seat belts at all times. Make sure that all young children are secured in the appropriate car seat or restraint system. Doing so can reduce the risk of serious injury and death in a collision by half.
- Drive more slowly on slippery roads. If the vehicle in front of you appears to be driving on wet asphalt but is not spraying water or leaving tracks, black ice is likely ahead.
- Be especially careful when driving into shaded areas, as black ice forms more quickly on surfaces protected from the sun.
- Don’t tailgate. Maintain a following distance of at least 10 seconds. This can help prevent a collision if your car starts to slide on a slippery surface.
- Winter driving requires you to be in complete control of your vehicle, so do not use cruise control. You need to be able to react quickly if a patch of black ice suddenly appears.
- Maintain a smooth and precise driving pace. If you change lanes too quickly or steer erratically while accelerating or braking, skidding can occur and cause you to lose control of the car.
- Be especially careful when approaching intersections known to be an accident risk. In Lewiston, for example, East Avenue at Sabattus Street and Lisbon Street at South Avenue have statistically been more dangerous for motorists.
What’s the Bottom Line?
If you are injured in a black ice accident in Lewiston or the surrounding areas, contact Fales & Fales, P.A. In many instances, winter weather car accidents are attributable to driver negligence or error. Although road conditions may be a factor, investigation often reveals that a driver was speeding, failed to yield the right of way, or was following too closely.
As a result, you may be entitled to receive compensation for vehicle damage, medical costs, lost income, and other economic and noneconomic losses. To schedule a confidential consultation, call 1-888-526-9408 today.