Monday, December 15, 2008

Winter is here, and for cars and trucks it is no "Wonderland" - Part I

It's the time of the year in much of the USA and almost all of Canada where cold, snow and ice begin to dominate the weather and create driving conditions that are often slow and difficult and sometimes very treacherous. A few recent examples from different places will suffice to illustrate this reality:

From The Grand Rapids Press on Monday December 15, 2008, 6:12 AM
After a night of rains and warm temperatures, a cold snap is turning road conditions icy.

One vehicle ended up in the median on Int. 196 in Ottawa County, reducing eastbound traffic to one lane east of Zeeland around 6 a.m. Road crews were spreading sand on the highway. Traffic also was reduced to one lane near Hudsonville, where three cars were in the median.
From on December 9, 2008 6:04 PM ET

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The season's first winter blast spawned hundreds of traffic accidents Tuesday across central Kansas as slick roads made travel hazardous for much of the day.

South central and parts of central Kansas generally had accumulations upward of 2 inches.

From the Tacoma (WA) News Tribune on as posted by Stacey Mulick on December 15th, 2008 at 06:56:54 AM

State transportation crews planned to be out overnight and this morning, treating and clearing the highways of ice.

Drivers should be prepared for slick conditions and take some precautions.

"One spin-out can block traffic for hours and cause additional incidents," transportation officials said in a press release. "And, clearing incidents can also take our crews away from road-clearing activities."

These three examples are just a tiny sample of the hundreds of news reports all across the USA and Canada of traffic slowdowns, accidents, extensive salting and sanding, and stressful driving conditions that winter brings to our roadways. Bridges are even more at risk, since they freeze first, and there is generally nowhere to slide except into other cards or in the worst of cases, off the bridge into the water below.

This rite of winter is the direct consequence of wheel based cars and trucks losing both traction and visibility in snowy and or icy conditions. Despite the best efforts of weather forecasters to predict bad weather so drivers are forewarned, and despite the efforts of road crews to plow, salt and sand roads before and during storms, each winter thousands of motorists will be involved in weather related accidents, and millions will be inconvenienced by the poor conditions. Add to that the environmental impact of distributing salt and sand in large quantities, and the expense of keeping road crews busy along with the police, ambulances, and tow trucks, and winter is not now and won't ever be a wonderland for those who travel on wheels.

This is part I of my blog entry on winter and transportation, and sets the stage for my offering the best solution to this inevitable and uneviable situation, which I will do in Part II and subsequent entries.

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