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On Heels of Polar Vortex, Several Snow Falls, American Highway Users Alliance Releases New Data Highlighting Importance and Benefits of Safe Winter Road Operations

Safe Roads AND Safe Drivers Imperative for Public Safety

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Highway Users Alliance today released a new study, Safety Impacts of Using Deicing Salt, which confirms tremendous safety benefits of safe winter road operations.

The new study finds 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.
  • The use of road salt reduces collisions by up to 85%.
  • A 10% improvement in the surface friction of a road (as measured by a Road Surface Index), yields approximately a 20% reduction in crashes.
  • Before- and after-analysis on four-lane roads showed a 93% reduction in accidents after deicing.
  • Deicing pays for itself a mere 25 minutes after salt is 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.  This presents a huge challenge to our nation's state and local governments who must act quickly to keep roads safe and clear," said Gregory M. Cohen, P.E., President and CEO of the American Highway Users Alliance. "We hope that jurisdictions can use this data to help secure ample budgets for their winter road operation needs."

Motorists caught in treacherous conditions are at risk; ambulances, fire engines, police and other emergency vehicles must be able to effectively and safely perform their life-saving services.

"I can tell you first-hand that one of the most important components for first responders to effectively do our jobs is our ability to get to you, the public, quickly and safely in your moment of crisis. That's why it is so important for state and local jurisdictions to keep the roads open and clear so first responders can do their job," said Ian Weston, Executive Director of the American Trauma Society, and volunteer firefighter/medic in Arlington, VA.

Snow and ice removal is a major operation for state and local jurisdictions. For example, R. Keith Compton, Chief, Division of Highway Services, Montgomery County (MD) Department of Transportation oversees 275 field personnel assigned to one of seven (7) depots scattered throughout the 500 square mile county. On a typical year, combined budgets for the Division approach $100 million and during snowy seasons the budget for Highway Services is likely to surpass the $100 million mark.

"Keeping the roads clear is priority number one for us during a weather event, and to effectively do that, we need the tools to do the job right," said R. Keith Compton, Chief, Division of Highway Services, Montgomery County Department of Transportation.

In addition to the well-being of the public, other considerations during a weather event are the financial costs and affects to commerce.

According to a previous study conducted in 2010 for the American Highway Users Alliance:

  • The economic impact of snow-related road closures far exceeds the cost of timely snow removal. Although states and localities may be hesitant to expend significant upfront resources in the short-term, the long-term payoff more than justifies the expense.
  • Among all economic classes, snow-related shutdowns harm hourly workers the most, accounting for almost two-thirds of direct economic losses.
  • A one-day major snowstorm can cost a state $300-$700 million in both direct and indirect costs.

"Time and again in recent weeks, we have seen a spike in winter-weather related crashes on area roads," said John Townsend, Manager of Public and Government Affairs, AAA Mid-Atlantic's Washington office.  "Being prepared and knowledgeable is the first line of defense for driving during inclement weather and on snowy, slushy, or icy pavement. Our best advice during inclement weather is: Don't put yourself and others in harm's way."

To help keep motorists safe, AAA offers the following Winter Road 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.

For additional winter weather road safety information, visit http://exchange.aaa.com/safety/roadway-safety/winter-driving-tips/.

The research for Safety Impacts of Using Deicing Salt was conducted by the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada and represents the most comprehensive database of winter road safety information ever, including surface data, accident history, and weather conditions over 122,000 event-hours. The data covers nearly 60 major snow events over seven years. The report generally confirms the results of earlier, American studies on winter road maintenance performed in the late 1980s and early 1990s. 

The American Highway Users Alliance represents motorists, RV enthusiasts, truckers, bus companies, motorcyclists, and a broad cross-section of businesses that depend on safe and efficient highways to transport their families, customers, employees, and products. Highway Users members pay the taxes that finance the federal highway program and advocate public policies that dedicate those taxes to improved highway safety and mobility.  For more information please visit www.highways.org.

SOURCE American Highway Users Alliance

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