Icy Bridges: Weather’s Underrated Killer (Winter Driving Education)

Icy Bridges: Weather’s Underrated Killer (Winter Driving Education)


In the next year, what’s the most likely weather danger that will pose a real threat to you? Is it this (tornado)? Or maybe this (hurricane)? How about this (flood)? Or this (lightning)? While all of those are legitimate dangers, you might be surprised that there’s an even more sinister weather-related hazard looming in your future – one that most people in the United States will encounter at least once a year. It’s the icy bridge. On average, icy bridges kill and injure more people every year than tornadoes, lightning or floods combined. Take a look at these stats. Even in “Tornado Alley”, you’re more likely to suffer injury or death from an icy bridge than from severe storms and tornadoes. So what can you do to prepare for this little-talked about, underrated killer? In this video, we’ll cover what you need to know. This is Dan Robinson with icyroadsafety.com You see these signs all the time. But what do they mean? A bridge, surrounded by air on all sides, cools rapidly when temperatures drop – unlike the surrounding roads, which are more insulated by the ground below them. The result? A road surface that goes from normal to treacherous – instantly. Icy bridges often strike without warning, sending a vehicle out of control before the driver even realizes the danger is there. This element of surprise means accidents tend to happen at highway speeds, with serious consequences. There are four key characteristics of bridge icing to keep in mind. First, it doesn’t take much snow or ice to make a bridge dangerously slick. This one is a good example. It doesn’t look that bad, does it? Until… The rest of the roads can be wet or dry. You can drive for many miles before encountering a bridge. One can easily catch you by surprise if you aren’t paying attention to the conditions. Ice on bridges can be either visible or invisible. Snow cover is easier to see, but freezing rain and freezing drizzle create hard to see – sometimes impossible to see – ice. Loss of control on a bridge can happen in two stages. There’s the initial slide on ice, then there’s the sudden grip as the vehicle moves off of the ice and back onto pavement. When it comes to staying safe from icy bridges, there are four basic points 1. Stay aware of the potential for icy bridges by checking weather conditions before you get on the road. 2. Know the warning signs that can signal the potential for icy bridges. 3. Reduce your speed when icing is possible, and 4. whenever possible, avoid major bridges on your route. You could end up stuck – or worse, in the middle of a pileup! When bridge icing is widespread, it might be best to just postpone your travel, as highways could be shut down from multiple accidents. Watch for these icy bridge warning signs: Any precipitation when temperatures are near or below freezing. That can include snow, sleet, rain, drizzle, or even fog. Any forecast for snow, sleet, freezing rain, freezing fog, or freezing drizzle. Ice forming on your windshield wipers, antennas, windows or side mirrors. And finally, ice or snow sticking to anything on the ground, especially signs, guardrails, grass or your vehicle. The general rule is: if ice is forming on anything you see, it could also be forming on bridges and roads. If you see an icy bridge ahead, don’t panic. Slow down before you drive onto the bridge. Ease off the gas, and coast across. Avoid braking, changing lanes, or accelerating on the bridge. If you’re already on the bridge, don’t attempt to slow down – just coast. Do not brake, don’t steer and don’t accelerate – those are all actions that can trigger a slide. If you do slide, again, don’t panic. Don’t hit your brakes, turn into the slide, and prepare for sudden tire grip when leaving the ice. If all else fails and you do have an accident, first and foremost, be aware of additional out of control vehicles. You’re not going to be the only one to hit that patch of ice. Many injuries and deaths occur from secondary or follow-up collisions, especially when people exit their vehicles and stand in the middle of the road. If your vehicle is still driveable, move it away from the scene and far off of the road. The simple presence of your vehicle on or near the road could trigger more accidents. Don’t exit your vehicle unless you can quickly get off of the roadway. Make sure that there’s no traffic approaching. Get behind a guardrail, jersey barrier, or up on an embankment – anything that will get you out of the way of additional out-of-control vehicles. Keep in mind that many highway bridges have gaps in between them. Fatalities happen almost every year from falls. Again, I can’t say it enough: never get out and stand in the road. Your car can withstand the impact from another vehicle much better than your body can! If you live in a region where sand is used instead of salt to treat bridges, keep in mind that sand does not melt the ice, it only serves to provide a small amount of traction to keep traffic moving. A sanded bridge is still very slick and dangerous, and requires reduced speed to negotiate safely. This accident happened on a bridge that was sanded. Bridge icing and icy roads in general should be a top concern for you and your family when driving during the winter months – commanding the same level of respect as tornadoes, flash floods and other forms of extreme weather. If you stay aware of the conditions, and reduce speed when icing threatens, you’ll avoid becoming another statistic of this underrated hazard. (on-scene cameraman voice) “Well folks, you’ve heard me say it a hundred times, and here it is: worse than tornadoes, worse than hurricanes: this is an icy bridge.” “Freezing rain.” “Very difficult to see, extremely treacherous, life-threatening.” “I don’t know if you can see me sliding there.” “Obviously, you saw what could happen.”

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  1. Hi Dan, as a Dutchman I can really appreciate the importance of what you're doing raising awareness on road icing!
    You might appreciate this Dutch classic on how, as you put it, "the simple presence of your vehicle on our near the road could trigger more accidents." Somebody standing on the pavement is actually almost hit by their own car when it gets struck by an out of control station wagon. Mind you, this is on a normal street with a speed limit of 50 km/h.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGhjGVVFjUs "Keiglad" (means "bloody slippery")

  2. In Quebec, this would be just another day as we're used to these conditions, and road crews are quick to salt the roads, plus snow tires are required by law over the winter months, but I imagine it's less frequently encountered down south so folks are less prepared.

  3. Me, my mom and my brothers drove into a ditch today driving to Edmonton and it was scary (btw my mom was driving) I am to young to drive and so are my brothers but yeah no one got hurt and there was another person getting towed out of the ditch on the other side of the highway and the tow guy that helped the other person helped us and we got out but one of the scariest things sitting there in the ditch was watching the other cars almost crash into us because the road was really slippery. We also watched a semi slip and almost go in the ditch but the driver was really good at driving and he managed to not go in the ditch and he turned around but the storm we got wrecked our trip to Edmonton and yeah… I don’t think anyone’s going to read this🤔😐

  4. Every cop I’ve ever known gets super irritated if people move their cars from the original stopping position after a fender bender before the cops have a chance to arrive. But you said to move the car off of the road if it’s possible. Have you ever heard of cops wanting people to stay wherever they end up after a slide-out & if so do you just disagree w/ their sentiment?

  5. Dan this is so true. In 2009 I was traveling on a wet winter day where it was raining. It was night time and I was driving 65mph..the posted speed limit. I was watching my outside temp gauge and noticed the temp had dropped from 33° to 31° and I remember thinking well that's below the freezing temp so this rain could turn to black ice quick. I came up to a bridge and the second I hit the bridge deck it went from wet to black ice and I lost control of my truck at 65mph. I had no control of the vehicle as I slide sideways across the entire deck of the bride that was elevated above train tracks. Once I hit the other side of the bride, I also hit dry pavement and had my wheels cranked to counter the slide and it shot me back across the lane toward the ditch like a rocket so I countered again and saved it coming to a stop on the shoulder with some hefty whiplash but how I didn't roll is beyond me! By all rights I should have rolled ass over head again and again. Luckily nobody was along side me. Once I started driving again, after I caught my breath, counted my blessings etc..the road was not all black ice and I had many miles to get home. 4wd didn't help me. I was in a big dodge ram and I went in the ditch two times before I made it home that night. Worst roads I've ever driven on and I'm from a place where terrible winter travel is common but ice is a whole different animal. I don't who you are or what you drive..glare ice is deadly. I'd rather drive thru 12" of snow than ice. Sorry for the lengthy story. Just wanted to share. Great educational stuff man!

  6. # 1. Drive on winter tires.
    # 2. Drive on good quality winter tires .
    # 3. Drive on good quality winter tires that is max 4 years old.
    We beyound the polar circle (in this case Lofoten shift to winter tires October 15. even when it rains all winter. We also have spikes in our tires. It costs an extra set of tires. Yes but we drive 55 mph even on wet ice for half a year 😀

  7. I’m new to your channel. This was very helpful. In East Texas, we usually get ice and most of us really don’t know how to drive in it.

  8. Or— speed Way up, line up your vehicle so it is in a straight line from where you get to the bridge to where the bridge ends. Once you enter the bridge take your feet off the pedals, quit steering, have a beer. If you cross the bridge safely it is because you did not do Anything.

  9. I'm trying to get better knowledge on driving in winter conditions as I'm going to be doing it more often, and these have been a great help so far, but I really found the phrase, "your car can withstand the impact from another vehicle much better than your body can" really funny.

  10. Be AWARE that SANDED bridges are slick even AFTER the ice has melted and is NO LONGER a threat! Sand can be JUST AS DANGEROUS as ice after it builds up on a bridge when its laid during an ice incident! Slow down on these same bridges! If there is any VISIBLE sand on a roadway or bridge, be especially careful! Ask any motorcyclist how dangerous SAND can be!!!! It's the same for a car or truck for the same reason!!! Good luck and be AWARE!

  11. It isn't just on traditional bridges, but on overpasses as well. And those are abundant in the US.

    Just follow the directions described at about the mid-way point when approaching a bridge or overpass, and you should be fine.

    Also, in order to only need to let off the accelerator to slow down, you should already be going slower than normal.

  12. You forgot to mention FROST this happens at any time day or Night Usually toward morning, But Can Happen any Time. I worked for The Iowa DOT Maintenance and seen many times a Bridge will become Frosty and the roadway Dry. Good Video though. The Main thing is Do NOT hit your Brakes, You are Totally out of Control Then. Another Thing is Anti-Lock Brakes do not work on Ice, Frost or Snow without something to grip, like Sand and/or Salt. Also Remember Salt does Nothing below 22 Degrees, it Will NOT melt Frost, Snow or Ice.

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