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Taking risks with Gallatin County’s coldest killer

Ice added to a drink can be refreshing but coatings of ice, slicked over Montana roads, can be deadly. Even Gallatin County's most experienced drivers lose control on icy highways and back roads. All the auto safety gadgets in the world aren't enough to save you from a slide, a spin or an auto accident.

What you don't know about road icing can kill you or someone else. Confidence will get a driver out on a slippery road, but it won't save them. A clear stretch of road can become an icy nightmare, particularly at bridges, ramps and overpasses, which cool faster than road surfaces due to air exposure on all sides.

Icy roads are responsible for twice as many fatalities as all other weather-related accidents combined. Sometimes, the enemy is the invisible product of freezing precipitation. Ice is a problem in any area where temperatures dip below freezing, but problems can start even at slightly warmer temperatures.

In many ways, ice is more deadly than snow. At least tires sometimes have something to grip when it's snowing. With ice, all bets are off for any size or type of vehicle.

Certain places are more dangerous than others for driving on ice. Gravity loses to ice on steep hills; vehicles at high speeds easily spin or fishtail out of control; icy curves send rear wheels outward and any ice-covered areas where drivers have to speed up or slow down trigger slides.

Watch for frozen surfaces along mountain roads, where temperatures fluctuate significantly as you drive. Look for snow melt, runoff and seepage covering roadways. Be on the alert for road ice when temperatures reach the mid-30s or even higher, if you're driving in a sleet or snow storm.

You can cause a preventable crash by driving at speeds too fast for icy conditions. Careless drivers can be sued for accidents that cause injuries and deaths.

Source: IcyRoadSafety.com, "Road Icing: You are at Risk" Jan. 01, 2015

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