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Ever wondered how black ice forms and what causes hydroplaning?

Whether you are a Nashville resident or a visitor to our famous music city, winter driving will be risky. Motorists, bikers and pedestrians are vulnerable whenever they venture outside. Rain, sleet, snow and ice often cause crashes with severe physical, mental and financial consequences.

Have you ever wondered how black ice forms, what causes hydroplaning and what does traction control involves? Those are valid questions, and once you understand the science behind these life-threatening hazards, you could increase your chances of staying safe this winter.

Why do you need snow tires?

If you believe your all-season tires are just fine, the following might explain the science of why winter tires are the safer option:

  • The compound of the rubber determines how flexible the tires are, which plays a vital role in the amount of traction your tires have.
  • The hard rubber compound of all-season tires will lose all its flexibility when the temperatures drop.
  • Winter tires consist of a rubber compound soft enough to maintain flexibility when you drive in snow or icy conditions.
  • Snow tires have specially designed grooves to help displace the moisture and provide traction when you drive on icy and slippery road surfaces.

Swapping your tires for the winter might be what keeps you out of the hospital and with your loved ones this holiday season.

How does your car's traction control work?

Most newer car models are equipped with anti-lock braking systems and traction control -- two different features that can both be components of the electronic stability control of your vehicle. Here's how they work:

  • The loss of traction results from insufficient friction between the tires and the road, causing spinning wheels and steering problems.
  • The anti-lock braking system of your car activates when you reduce your speed while traction control works when you accelerate, such as when you drive up an incline.
  • As soon as the electronic stability control system detects a spinning wheel, it activates the ABS system to that wheel to gain more traction.

Even if your car has an electronic stability control system, as the driver, you remain responsible for safe driving -- so it might be best not to rely entirely on the electronics.

Is black ice really black?

The answer is no. Black ice only appears black because it is so clear that you can see the black tarmac surface of the road through it. The following could help you to understand when and where to be on the lookout for black ice:

  • Light, freezing rain and even fog can cause black ice -- typically, when precipitation freezes, melts and refreezes.
  • In areas where vehicles stop briefly, like at intersections, the dampness in the exhaust fumes can cause black ice, even if the temperature is above the freezing point.
  • The same applies to shady areas on bridges where the road surface is colder than elsewhere.

It is never a bad idea to check weather forecasts before taking a road trip in the winter.

What causes hydroplaning?

If you thought hydroplaning and high rates of speed were linked, you are mistaken. Read on to learn more about hydroplaning:

  • Your vehicle can hydroplane even if your speed does not exceed 30 mph.
  • It happens when a thin layer of water forms between the tire and the road surface.
  • Causes could include the amount of water on the road, your travel speed, tire air pressure, tire tread depth, the characteristics of the road surface, and the weight of your vehicle.

The risk is highest immediately after the rain starts falling because oil deposits on the road surface can make it slick and hazardous.

Accidents could still happen

Even with all this knowledge, you will remain vulnerable to the unsafe driving of other road users. If you are the victim of a road accident, your best route might be to utilize the skills of an experienced Nashville personal injury attorney. A lawyer can provide legal counsel and advocate for you in a civil lawsuit to pursue a claim for damage recovery.

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