BLACK ICE 101: Driver's ed instructor offers advice - My29 WFTC Minneapolis-St. Paul

BLACK ICE 101: Driver's ed instructor offers advice

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Anyone who had to commute in the metro on Tuesday morning found many highways were more like a skating rink than a road despite a clear appearance, and Fox 9 News got some tips on navigating black ice.

As a driver safety instructor, Lee Dvorak is constantly talking about black ice -- but after seeing all the spinouts on Tuesday morning, he can't help but wonder if Minnesotans have gotten the message about black ice.

"It's one of those things that we have to, as drivers, anticipate," he said.

In his post at Esse Driving School, Dvorak often preaches patience this time of year.

"Nobody wants to slow down," he said. "We're always in a big hurry."

Yet, speed can lead to spinouts -- and it significantly increases the severity of any crash. Black ice can even cause slips for someone at a stop light, so what should drivers do?

The first piece of advice is to slow down at the first sign of a car in a ditch, but there are other warning signs too.

"Here's a bridge deck. This is going to get icy before the rest of the road because the ground is warmer," Dvorak explained. "The road might be clear, but right where that shadow is, it's slippery."

Bridge spans and ramps are common problem areas, and shadows are a big red flag.

"You don't want to be accelerating underneath this," Dvorak recommended. "You want to stay steady."

Yet, simply being steady isn't enough. It's also important to maintain a safe distance from other cars. Dvorak advocates the three-second rule, but he admits it's one he doesn't see many motorists putting to use.

"Nobody does this," he said.

Dvorak said drivers who don't approach on- and off-ramps with caution create another big safety risk, especially since ramps often have black ice on them.

"If you are coming in too fast and there's a bend at the end of that exit ramp, you are in trouble if it's icy," Dvorak warned.

However, even someone who follows all the rules of the road can still hit a slick spot. Dvorak also has advice on the best way to react in that situation.

"Take your foot off the accelerator," he said. "Don't hit the brake. Don't over-steer."

If someone finds themselves spinning out of control, however, the advice is a quite different.

"If you are out of control, you might as well hit the brakes hard because your car will go steady in one direction," he said.

If at all possible, Dvorak urges drivers in that situation to aim for a ditch and away from other traffic -- but in the end, he hopes everyone will follow a simple set of winter driving guidelines.

"Stay calm. Take your time. There is no hurry," he said. "Strive to drive to arrive alive."

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