Benefits of Winter Road Salting Outweigh Costs, Study Says

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Uncharacteristically severe winter weather is hammering most of the Southeastern U.S. this week, with winter storm warnings and advisories spanning Texas to Virginia and sleet and freezing rain forecast for the Gulf Coast. To add icy insult to injury, the storm is expected to be followed by subzero temperatures across most of the South, which means dangerous roads — especially for Southerners unaccustomed to driving in such conditions.

Don't Let It Slide: Heed AAA's Black Ice Driving Tips

As public officials in those states determine how to respond to the weather on their streets and highways, an advocacy group for recreational and commercial motorists is touting the idiom that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The American Highway Users Alliance this week released a study that concluded the impacts of using deicing salt on roadways far outweighed the costs, both in terms of safety and financial concerns. It was conducted during nearly 60 major snow events over seven years by the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.

The study states that:

  • Road-surface condition is the single most important factor during a winter event, trumping visibility, precipitation intensity, air temperature, wind speed and exposure. • The use of road salt reduces collisions by as much as 85 percent.
  • A 10 percent improvement in the surface friction of a road yields about a 20 percent reduction in crashes.
  • Before-and-after analysis on four-lane roads showed a 93 percent reduction in accidents after deicing.
  • Deicing pays for itself within 25 minutes of being applied.

"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," Gregory M. Cohen, Alliance president and CEO, said in a statement. "This presents a huge challenge to our nation's state and local governments who must act quickly to keep roads safe and clear."

Beyond safety concerns, the study concluded that the economic impact of snow-related road closures far exceeds the cost of timely snow removal. A one-day snowstorm can cost a state between $300 million and $700 million in direct and indirect costs, and it takes a disproportionate toll on hourly workers' incomes.

By Matt Schmitz | January 30, 2014 | Comments (6)

Comments 

J

The crucial part is that a majority of them are not as experienced in winter driving condition as folks in the North do.

I recall I was blazing through them a few years back when they had some snow and everyone was crawling on the road...

Wain

As in Atlanta the problem could be there's too much traffic and the majority of drivers don't know how to navigate in snowy conditions, or driving the wrong vehicle for the conditions. In 2013 we were in a snow storm that brought traffic to a stand still at 4000 feet elevation, however I was able to drive around stopped cars and semi trucks. Once i got out of the mess the highway patrol did let me drive-thru. I had the entire freeway to myself, traffic was so light for the next 300 miles.

P

Your article should be brought to the attention of the administrators in Atlanta. If the traffic had kept going it would not have taken 2 days to straighten out.

autophil

There is no way your alleged driving skills would have helped you in atlanta. When the road is coated in glare ice because no one spread salt before or during the storm, no amount of skill will keep you on the road. I don't blame the drivers for one second for the problems in Atlanta.

J

autophil,

That is not something unusual even up here in the North. Guess what? We still drive through the ice.

autophil

So you're saying that ice is easy for you to drive on. Too bad your weren't in Atlanta that day. You could have flown one of the 2,600 flights cancelled and shown those other pilots how to take off from a glare ice runway.

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