Those long black lines on roads that seal cracks in the surface mean very little to car drivers, but they can be lethal for motorcyclists and have been known to cause numerous motorcycle accidents. Known as “black-tar snakes,” the lines become slippery if not applied efficiently, especially in wet or hot weather conditions. Whle the following cases are not California cases, black-tar snakes are dangerous all around the country.
On September 1st, a Minnesota police official was killed in a motorcycle crash, and it is suspected that the accident was caused by a “black-tar snake.” The intersection at which he crashed reportedly has numerous slippery, sealed cracks, but it is still officially undecided what caused the accident. Sadly, that officer was not wearing a protective helmet and did not survive his injuries.
Another Minnesota officer was wearing both a helmet and motorcycle jacket when he slipped and crashed in July – which is a very hot month in the Midwest state. While riding on his motorcycle one hot day, the officer skidded on a tar snake because the sealant had become slippery due to the extreme heat. Fortunately, because he was wearing protective gear, the officer lived to warn the public and other riders that, “The stuff is really deadly. Especially when you hit it and you don’t expect it.”
According to a spokesman for the American Motorcyclist Association, the above stories about tar-snake accidents fit into what experts note as risky driving on the sealed cracks. Riding on black-tar snakes is most dangerous when a driver is slowing down or accelerating. One of the officers above had been slowing down at the time of his accident, and the other was speeding up.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation says that road maintenance crews should be more careful in the way that they mend the roads and should use a “flush-full, strike-off” system that means scraping the excess tar from the surface. A pavement engineer disagrees that there is much needed change in the filling system and says that crews generally are following the best practices when repairing cracks.
A representative from the Department of Public Safety, who himself is a motorcyclist, agrees that black-tar snakes pose a great risk to riders. He adds that the best safety measure is avoidance: “We all try to avoid roads that have those things.” Take note of areas with numerous tar snakes, especially when the roads are wet or very hot, and find another route or place to go for a joyride.