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Black Ice Will Total Your Car

The smallest patch of black ice can be as dangerous as a snow storm, and Monday proved it

(Photo credit: Sergei Medvedev/Getty Images)

A little bit of snow, a touch of rain, and a whole lot of cold creates the perfect breeding ground for baby patches of black ice.  It only takes a little to do a lot – and the Indy metro area got its first healthy helping of it Monday. Here’s what popped up on Twitter - from @WIBCTraffic and other road junkies from around the city:

And we're off. Just a bitty piece of black ice jammed up northbound I-465:

RTV6's Julie Pursley - along with chopper pilot Shea Goodpaster - grabbed some pics of the delay:

Kevin Ratermann of WISH TV showed us the wreckage and offered details on the crash:

Just down the road, there was another crash on I-465:

Things got worse on the west side, because of course they did:

Secondary crashes started to pop up on the west and northwest side:

It was the first black ice of the season, and it created havok on a well traveled interstate in Indianapolis.

Again, it only takes a little to do a lot - and it's a long winter.

By the way, I attended grade school in southeast Missouri, which is why I though “icey” was the correct spelling of “icy” (see above). It wasn’t until after a day or two that @HoneyWestFan noticed the mistake:

We sent the graphic back to production.  Here’s the new pic, so you know what to look out for:


Black ice is an abomination.  It’s very smooth, glossy, and tough to pick out unless you’re traveling under the right lighting conditions.  Black ice doesn’t bubble – like the ice that’s used to chill your highball of Wild Turkey – and sort of goes chameleon while blending in with the surface  Worst yet, black ice likes it best during early morning and evening, classifying it as a first class traffic predator.

According to the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), black ice likes to pop up in darker places untouched by the son, such as:

  • OFF RAMPS – like the ramp from westbound I-465 to S.R. 37/Harding St.
  • BRIDGES – Like the newly renovated bridge at Capitol Ave. over Fall Creek.
  • INTERSECTIONS – Aw man. There’s a bunch of them! Ever navigated a roundabout with black ice? Of course you haven’t, otherwise you’d still be on it.
  • SHADY AREAS – Alleyways and city streets would be ideal. Also Binford Blvd, during the summertime, when all the leaves are on the trees providing shade.  Doesn’t work that way? Says you, Mr. Scientist.


State Police First Lieutenant Rich Myers – famous for the always informative and entertaining Indiana State Police Roadshow, seen here  – offered some words and tips on how to prepare for black ice and other nasty weather stuff before you turn your favorite thoroughfare into a junk yard:

Of course, with any type of suspected ill driving conditions the best advice is to slow your speed, increase your following distance, and be prepared for unforeseen conditions.

It is always good advice not to use electronic devices, eat, shave, apply makeup, read books and newspapers, while driving. All of these I have witnessed during my 31 year ISP career. As unsafe as these attention distractors are during good driving conditions you can only imagine how dangerous they become during bad driving conditions.

I’m usually alone on this one, but I believe in capital punishment for those who text and drive during bad weather. You're off to the booty house, and pray the Governor gonna call.


  • Don’t get rattled.  Keep yourself straight and DON’T SLAM THE BREAKS.  If you slam the breaks, it’s over, and you’re heading back to town in the passenger seat of a wrecker.  Let the car just move over the patch and don’t overcorrect - just like driver’s ED.  If your butt is starting to slide, turn into the direction of the slide. If you go in the opposite direction, it’s donuts on the interstate.
  • Instead of breaks, let off the gas and calmly keep the wheel in the direction it’s already turned at. Slow down by letting yourself naturally deaccelerate.  This is the best way to reduce speed.
  • Remember, black ice is usually patchy, so if you make a mistake and are in real trouble, JUST STAY COOL. For all you fancy pants drivers, anti-lock brakes (ABS) could come in handy if you absolutely have to break. They'll mimic you manually pumping your breaks.
  • If you don’t have ABS, pump the breaks, but NO SLAMMING. If you’re out of control and it's practical, look for something soft to land in - like a snow bank. It beats totalling your and someone else's car.
  • When you’re done and your nerves are shot, bail at the next exit and regain your composure.  I’d recommend something with a delicious buffet, like the Red Garter.

Again, your composure will dictate how you ultimately handle the situation. Trust yourself and trust your instincts. If inclement weather is forecasted or in progress, leave the phone on the passenger seat and just drive.


There's also a WIBC Traffic snow blog, complete with driving tips from State Police Sergeant John Perrine and Wayne Township Fire Captain Michael Pruitt. Give it a read as a quick refresher, because we're just getting started with this winter thing. Have you read what the Farmers' Almanac is saying about Indiana weather in 2018? I haven't either, but it can't be good.

As always, please be safe out there and THANK YOU for the awesome tips and Twitter conversation. You guys do the hard work - I'm just the messenger.


Matthew Bair is the road salt you threw over your shoulder, which unexpectedly led to another seven years of bad luck.. He's the new voice of Indianapolis traffic, and can be followed on Twitter @WIBCTraffic. Tips? Call direct at (317) 684-8134 or the 93 WIBC Newsroom at (317) 637-6397.

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