Tanya Mohn, Contributor
Forbes. Jan. 31, 2014
Most drivers know that during and after winter storms, applying salt to roads and highways is a good thing to do, but a new study confirms the tremendous safety benefits salt can provide to help make roads safe and prevent crashes, injuries and deaths.
The results of the study, Safety Impacts of Using Deicing Salt, were announced on Wednesday at the National Press Club in Washington by the American Highway Users Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy organization serving the transportation community.
A main finding is that road surface condition is the single most important safety factor during a winter event — more important than visibility, precipitation intensity, air temperature, wind speed, or exposure.
Other highlights from the study:
• The use of road salt reduces collisions by up to 85%.
• A 10% improvement in the surface friction of a road yields approximately a 20% reduction in crashes.
• Before- and after-analysis on four-lane roads showed a 93% reduction in crashes after deicing.
“According to the Federal Highway Administration more than 1,300 people are killed and more than 116,800 people are injured in vehicle crashes on snowy, slushy, or icy pavements,” each year, Gregory M. Cohen, president and chief executive of the American Highway Users Alliance, said in a statement.
Treacherous road conditions impact not only the public, but also ambulances, fire engines, police and other first responders, the report notes.
Research for the study was conducted by the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada and represents the most comprehensive database of winter road safety information to date, according to the alliance. The data covers nearly 60 major snow events over seven years.
To avoid winter-weather related crashes and help keep motorists safe, the AAA offers the following safety tips:
• Make certain your tires are properly inflated.
• Keep your gas tank at least half full.
• Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface.
• Accelerate and decelerate slowly. It takes longer to slow down on snowy, icy roads.
• The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten seconds.
American Highway Users Alliance
Winter Weather Highway Safety: Preventing Crashes, Injuries and Deaths