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Ice, Snow, Rain and Fog Ahead - Vaisala reminds drivers to be safe this winter


Driving safely in the winter is not only about road maintenance services and the condition of the road, but also the driver plays an important role in safety. Driver behavior, speed, and driving style as well as the condition of your vehicle and its tires play an important role in ensuring a safe journey. For example, awareness of significantly longer stopping distances is critical when you are driving under roadway ice warnings or in areas prone to black ice.

Ice, snow, heavy rain and fog contribute to hazardous winter travel by reducing driver visibility and friction between a vehicle’s tires and the road surface - or “grip”. For example according to a U.S. Department of Transportation study in the U.S, adverse weather conditions and slippery roads account for an average of 1,511,200 crashes, 629,300 injuries, and 7,130 fatalities per year. Slippery roads that reduce grip account for the majority of these statistics with rain and ice as leading factors. Wet pavement accounts for 81% of the injuries and 77% of the fatalities and icy pavement accounts for 10% of injuries and 10% of fatalities in the U.S. In addition to loss of grip, rain, snow and fog can reduce visibility to nearly zero.

Ice and Braking Distances

The figure below illustrates how ice and loss of grip impact braking distances. On a dry surface, a vehicle traveling at 60 km/h has a braking distance of 18 meters (as illustrated by the green car). On a road surface with 0.15mm of hard ice, the braking distance at 60 km/h increases to 71m (red car), or almost three times the braking distance under normal conditions. Under hard ice conditions like this, the driver needs to reduce his/her travel speed to 30 km/h - or half of normal speed - to stop in the same distance as with a dry surface (yellow car).

Advances in Road Weather Technology Help to Improve Safety

Recent developments in technology help transportation authorities identify when and where the roads are hazardous so safety precautions can be taken. Vaisala is a leading provider of remote sensors and weather stations used to measure road surface conditions in real time from the busiest city intersections to rural highways. For slippery road conditions, Vaisala’s remote sensing technologies measure water, ice and snow level thicknesses on the road surface. This data is used to provide an assessment of friction for authorities to take appropriate action, such as switching on slippery road warning signs for drivers, trigger automatic de-icing sprays, or call for de-icing equipment to be dispatched. Other types of Vaisala remote sensors measure visibility in real time to issue low visibility warnings due to rain, snow, and fog.

Intelligent Traffic Systems Combine Road Observations, Forecasting, and Communication

These remote sensors for road surface conditions and visibility can be combined with traffic cameras, weather stations, thermal mapping, forecasting services, decision support systems and mobile communications for a high tech solution to improve road safety. Intelligent traffic systems can automatically issue roadside and broadcast warnings, dispatch crews to problem areas, and forecast hazardous conditions for transportation authorities to plan ahead and pre-stage equipment to improve road conditions, potentially saving lives.

Driver Behavior: Heeding Warnings and Adjusting to the Conditions

Transportation authorities are adopting new technology to measure, identify, and predict hazardous road conditions that can, in many cases, be reduced with treatment such as de-icing sprays or salt applications. However the driver’s behavior before and during winter road hazards plays a critical role. For example slippery roads due to wet pavement and ice have deadly consequences due to loss of friction between the tire and the road. Drivers are responsible for ensuring that their tires are maintained according to the manufacturer’s recommendation. Even when tires are properly inflated, rotated and replaced as recommended, drivers should also heed roadside and broadcast warnings and adjust their speed, distances between vehicles, acceleration and deceleration accordingly in order to maximize safety under winter conditions.

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About Vaisala
Vaisala is a global leader in environmental and industrial measurement. Building on 75 years of experience, Vaisala contributes to a better quality of life by providing a comprehensive range of innovative observation and measurement products and services for chosen weather-related and industrial markets. Headquartered in Finland, Vaisala employs approximately 1400 professionals worldwide and is listed on the NASDAQ OMX Helsinki stock exchange.


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