Keep Highway Travel Safe: As winter approaches, road safety becomes a top concern for drivers nationwide. One of the most significant hazards motorists face during this time is road ice formation, which leads to slippery surfaces, reduced traction, and increased stopping distances.
In this article, you will read about the various methods governments and organizations use to prevent icing on highways, their effectiveness and the latest advancements in anti-icing technology. Whether you’re a seasoned driver or a newbie behind the wheel, this guide will provide peace of mind for your winter drives.
Most governments either use anti-icing or de-icing techniques. They’re useful to prevent snow accumulation on highways and protect you from accidents on your four-hour road trip to a ski mountain or resort.
Anti-icing measures prevent ice and snow buildup on the road. Usually, a brine treatment solution is applied to roads before snow falls, and this solution stops snow and ice from bonding to the road surface. It’s most effective at temperatures above 20 degrees Fahrenheit. While anti-icing is usually used to reduce snow accumulation, it can also help with black ice.
The most common way to keep roadways safe for travel involves de-icing. This method uses crushed rock salt to melt snow and ice. Usually, organizations let the snow freeze on the road before sprinkling the rock salt to break the bond. For reliable de-icing solutions, consider exploring offerings from providers like JennyChem, ensuring effective and efficient measures to tackle winter weather challenges.
Anti-icing has several benefits for the environment and vehicles:
- The low salt concentration minimizes runoff and contamination of waterways.
- Salt brine generates less dust than other methods, like de-icing with sand or gravel.
- Drivers may notice a fuel-efficient drive over brine-treated roads since they require less traction.
- By melting snow and ice, wheels on vehicles have a better grip, which reduces the risk of accidents.
- Preventing ice accumulation means there’s less need for maintenance like repaving and plowing.
- While de-icing requires a waiting period for the ice to solidify, anti-icing is quicker and more efficient, which means faster responses to potential snow and ice events.
The benefits of de-icing include the following:
- This method prevents collisions and protects drivers from injuries and accidents.
- Salt is affordable and easy to spread.
- De-icing improves vehicle traction.
Over the years, environmentalists and scientists have flagged issues with salt runoff from de-icing. In large quantities, rock salt can corrode vehicles, bridges and roads over time.
Road salt runoff can also end up in reservoirs, wells and other water sources, which causes contamination of drinking water. The high sodium levels in drinking water can affect people with high blood pressure, and chloride levels in surface water can be toxic for some fish, amphibians and insects that are necessary for balance in ecosystems. The accumulation of rock salts on roadsides can also harm plants and animals that ingest it.
Since the beginning of time, animals have been attracted to salt. Alexander the Great’s troops noticed their horses licking the Himalayan salt rocks before they discovered their many properties and uses. Dear and moose like licking up salt, and when their numbers increase close to roads, there’s more risk of accidents.
Governments and organizations have tried several alternatives in different areas:
- Magnesium chloride: Although it costs more to cover the same area, magnesium chloride is safer than sodium chloride or rock salt.
- Calcium chloride: Though costlier than sodium chloride, calcium chloride is safer for the environment and is usually only in very sensitive places.
- Potassium chloride: This is most effective on driveways and sidewalks when temperatures drop below 20 degrees F. In addition to being a great ice melter, potassium chloride is also safer for plants surrounding the roadway.
- Sand: Only some states use this method to increase traction and reduce the slippery effect of ice.
Future Developments to Keep Highway Travel Safe
Here are some of the developments underway to reduce the need for sodium chloride pollution.
Porous pavement prevents ice formation by allowing standing water to seep through, interrupting the freeze-thaw cycle.
Using agricultural byproducts, this eco-friendly solution is a sustainable de-icing method that protects the environment and supports a circular economy.
Engineered solar road panels can melt ice and snow by heating water in pipes placed into the road. They are safe to walk and drive over and provide an extra energy source.
Similar to solar roads, heating elements embedded into the road maintain a safe, warm temperature to prevent ice and snow from accumulating on roads.
These systems greatly increase efficiency and decrease the need for manual work by using sensors and robotic technology to detect snowfall and automatically deploy snowplows and de-icing equipment. Automated mechanical snow removal systems that work round the clock to remove snow and prevent ice buildup.
With microencapsulation, de-icing agents are put in biodegradable polymers to regulate release rates and reduce environmental effects.
Keep Highway Travel Safe During Winter
While you’re sure to drive on roads that have been de-iced or treated with anti-icing solutions, practicing safe winter-driving habits is still important. Always inspect your car before you drive it, and keep emergency supplies in the car in case you need to stop somewhere for a while.
Jack Shaw is a lifelong traveler and the senior writer for Modded. His love of backpacking has taken him far and wide, and you can find his experiences and advice scattered throughout his writings.