Icy Road Safety.com - Prepare for Weather's Most Underrated Hazard

                Friday, November 4, 2011 - 12:30AM

15 road icing deaths in the past week: estimating the full impact

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Right on schedule, the grim weather hazard of road ice is already taking hold this season. The past week has brought the season's first snowfall to many parts of the country, and with it, the first multiple-fatality and injury accident reports. The toll from road ice this week has reached at least 15, with news feeds lighting up with reports of multiple fatal crashes in numerous states. The following is a list of this past week's incidents so far, and more reports will likely come in over the next few days. Many of these have resulted from an early-season snow event in the northeastern US states.

Road icing deaths: October 27 - November 3, 2011
Location Fatalities Notes
Ridley, PA
Windsor, NY
secondary crash
Babylon Village, NY
secondary crash
Stroudsburg, PA
Hebron, CT
Hartford, CT
rollover, no seatbelt
Bristol Township, PA
Philadelphia, PA
part of 30-car pileup
New York, NY
secondary crash
Binghamton, NY
bridge, secondary crash
Northampton, MA
Tucumcari, NM
rollover, no seatbelt

Five of these fatalities involved the secondary or 'follow-up' crash phenomenon, where motorists (either Good Samaritans or accident victims) were struck by a subsequent out-of-control vehicle after standing outside on the roadway. The victims were outside either checking on another driver or inspecting the damage to their own car. These are five more tragic examples of how the first icy road accident scene is still actually an accident-in-progress situation, and as such, it is critical to everyone involved to either remain in their vehicles or get as far off of the roadway as possible, as quickly as possible. Further out-of-control cars and trucks are almost certain to be approaching, with no way to avoid a collision with someone standing on or along the road. If stranded motorists are unable to get away from the road (as in the middle of a bridge), a car's interior provides a more survivable collision protection than standing outside.

As a result of research of events during the past few winter seasons, I've noted that injury and total accident numbers can be very loosely estimated from the number of deaths. During a typical event, for every death recorded, there are 50 to 150 injuries; and anywhere from 400 to 1,000 accidents serious enough to be reported to police. I prefer to be conservative when estimating numbers to avoid any appearance of exaggeration, so I usually use the lowest possible multiplier: That yields formulas of Injuries=50x deaths and Accidents=400x deaths. So without painstakingly counting every single injury and damage-causing accident using police reports, we can roughly estimate from this ratio that at least 750 injuries occurred this week, with at least 6,000 vehicles damaged. Again, those are minimum numbers using a conservative estimate - they are likely much higher in actuality. Assuming an average damage loss to a vehicle of $8,000 (some cars totaled, others dented/scratched), the economic loss from vehicle damage alone for this week is likely more than $48 million. That does not include medical expenses for the injured, tow truck fees, police/fire/EMS overtime/operating costs, and lost work time/productivity from those injured or having a damaged car to deal with.

15 deaths. 750+ people hurt. $48+ million in damage. And it's only November 4, folks. That's the road ice hazard, and that's why this web site exists. We have a long winter ahead. Let's see what we can do to make a difference this season.

The following comments were posted before this site switched to a new comment system on August 27, 2016:

Your work needs to be recognised internationally as an authority which is thinking about prevention
- Posted by richard starling dad of an ice-caused paraplegic from devon, uk
Thank you Richard, I appreciate your support.
- Posted by Dan R. from New Baden, IL

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- Another case for "Road Ice Warnings": December 8-9, 2011 light snow event - December 10, 2011
- A big thanks to those helping raise road icing awareness - November 18, 2011
- 15 road icing deaths in the past week: estimating the full impact - November 4, 2011
- 2011-2012 road ice season in the US already in full swing - October 22, 2011
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Past Blog Archives
- April 2010 - January 2011 posts
- December 2009 - March 2010 posts
- November 2009 posts
- October 2009 posts
- March-April 2009 posts
- February 2009 posts
- January 2009 posts
- December 2008 posts

Educational Winter Driving Videos - Watch for Free:

Video: How to correct a slide on an icy road (and how to prevent them)Video: Icy Bridges: Weather's underrated killerVideo: Deadliest Weather: Freezing Rain

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