Safe winter roads protect lives

When winter roads become impassable, ambulances, fire engines, police and other emergency vehicles can’t perform their life-saving services. That’s bad enough, but the risk to life and limb goes far beyond the inability to respond to emergencies.

More than 116,000 Americans are injured and over 1,300 are killed on snowy, slushy or icy pavement every winter. It is no wonder, then, that the sight of salt trucks reassures citizens. Salt keeps roads open and safe.

A Marquette University study examined highway accidents in snow. Road salt reduced:

  • Crashes by 88%
  • Injuries by 85%
  • Accident costs by 85%

Battling snow and ice comes with a price tag, of course, but the study’s cost-benefit analysis shows it is well worth the investment. Deicing pays for itself a mere 25 minutes after salt is spread.

Statistics kept by the Federal Highway Administration help illustrate the prevalence and danger of snowy, icy roads:

  • Over 70 percent of the nation’s roads are located in snowy regions, those which receive more than five inches average snowfall annually.
  • Nearly 70 percent of the U.S. population lives in these snowy regions.
  • Over 1,300 people are killed and more than 116,800 people are injured in vehicle crashes on snowy, slushy or icy pavement annually.
  • Every year, nearly 900 people are killed and nearly 76,000 people are injured in vehicle crashes during snowfall or sleet.
  • Each year, 24 percent of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy or icy pavement and 15 percent happen during snowfall or sleet.
  • Freeway speeds are reduced by 3 to 13 percent in light snow and by 5 to 40 percent in heavy snow.
  • Average speeds on arterial roads decline by 30 to 40 percent on snowy or slushy pavement.
  • Winter road maintenance accounts for roughly 20 percent of state Department of Transportation maintenance budgets.

Also see

  • The Roadway Safety Foundation’s Clear Winter Roads brochure.
  • Marquette University study (25-page pdf) examining impact of road salt on highways in New York, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
  • Federal Highway Administration data on injuries and deaths on winter roads.

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