Consider the characteristics of winter time driving

January 28, 2022
A. Shibankova

Winter is a beautiful, but also a dangerous time for drivers. It's not just that people sometimes drive too fast over the Christmas period because people are driving to their parents and grandparents and are once again running late. It also gets interesting on the roads after the turn of the year. The holidays and New Year's Eve still linger a bit, the good resolutions are still firmly in mind, so there's no time to lose in January.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) of the US introduced the average statistics of 1,705 fatalities annually, caused by the changed road conditions in winter times over the period from 2007 to 2016. The data consider such climatic dangers as snowy, slushy, and icy pavement. From their estimates, the average number of deaths on roads exposed to winter climate makes up 33 percent of the overall fatality count from risky conditions, caused by weather. And even though winter accidents are not the most common weather-related road accident cases, the above-mentioned percentage is still quite warning. 

The reasons for recording such a high number of deaths in cold times are diverse. One of them is the impaired braking ability of a driver. Even though the speed of a driver’s reaction is not noticeably changed on a clear snowless day, total stopping force decreases due to winter road conditions. Statistically, it may take 10 times more for a vehicle to slow down on a snowy highway, compared to driving on dry roads. As a result, the braking distance is also expanded, compiling the basis for potential accidents. That means that if there is a situation of emergency, like when a child jumps out on a busy road in the middle of a game, one could immediately brake in dry conditions and save its life. However, if the same situation repeats during winter time, people would be heavily injured, and that is the most optimistic scenario.

Another cause for the high fatality numbers in winter derives from uneven speed reductions on the roads. Consider traffic flow measurements in different weather conditions. According to the FHWA, the greatest influence on the average speed decrease is made when it is heavily snowing, which is affecting road surfaces. Specifically, the speed of vehicles might be reduced by up to 40 percent from this factor alone. Additional disturbance for a driver comes from impaired visibility during snowfall. It also adds up to around 10 per cent to the overall speed decline. And if from a traffic control perspective such a reduction might seem advantageous, the reality is different. Some car users drive much slower due to the cautiousness of the icy roadways, while others overestimate themselves and comply with fixed speed limits, unadaptive to inclement weather conditions. Consequently, speed variance on the roads is increased, provoking the occurrence of new car crashes.  

How about the components of the vehicles themselves? They are also affected by weather and pose a serious danger, when not maintained regularly. Car tires are the parts that require special attention. Low temperatures of the winter season influence tire pressure, making the air inside more dense and deflating the whole part. That creates problems with balance, deteriorating the vehicle’s stability, and imposes additional safety risks on road users.

Adverse weather conditions have always been influencing the overall traffic situation, generating emergencies and bringing multiple road collisions. To mitigate this impact and particularly reduce speed variance, up-to-date devices for speed control and traffic counting from ROADIA can be the way to go. Let us help you protect yourself and the world of traffic during these tricky winter times!


Rico Seidel

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