Johann Szautner, PE, Civil Engineer ::::
The Problem: Statistics kept by the Federal Highway Administration illustrate the prevalence and danger of snowy and icy roads. Nearly 70 percent of the U.S. population lives in snowy regions. Over 1,300 people are killed and more than 116,800 people are injured in vehicle crashes on snowy, slushy or icy pavement annually.
The Accident: On an early winter morning a police officer received a dispatch call to investigate a motor vehicle accident. When he arrived at the scene, he found vehicle #1 on the shoulder, of a curvy and steeply sloping rural highway facing downgrade, and vehicle #2 in the adjacent travel lane also facing downgrade. Both drivers, severely injured, were already taken to a hospital. The officer noted in his report that the speed limit in the area of the accident is 45 MPH, and that icy road conditions existed. The driver of vehicle #1 started to negotiate a curve when he hit an area of ice on the roadway and lost control of his vehicle, causing it to spin into the opposite travel lane, where it was struck by vehicle #2 on the driver’s side door. The officer concluded that vehicle #1 was driving too fast for conditions and not staying in his lane. The driver of vehicle #1 sustained a severe brain injury, while driver of vehicle #2 completely recovered from his injuries.