The weather outside isn’t frightful for the time being, but chilly temperatures and winter storms in Washington State have brought on a spate of crashes caused by dangerous weather conditions.
Two drivers were hurt on Monday, November 23rd after a three-vehicle impact sent two cars spinning across an intersection on state Route 48. In Federal Way, a crash on the icy asphalt of Pacific Highway sent two people to the hospital, one with critical injuries. Earlier in November, severe winds caused dramatic crashes near Tacoma.
Less salt means more ice
Unlike most cities in the northern United States, Seattle doesn’t salt its roads. Instead, it uses a combination of sand and de-icer. Salt melts ice on snowy roadways by changing the way water molecules interact as they try to form crystals. It slows down the rate at which roads can ice over, and makes water on roads melt faster than it can freeze.
According to city officials, Seattle’s roads are actually supposed to stay “snow packed.” Salt on the roads would wash downhill and possibly contaminate delicate environmental areas like Lake Union, Lake Washington, and the Puget Sound. But unlike salt, sand doesn’t change the way water melts and freezes. It can provide a little extra traction for cars, but it’s not a substitute for the ice-melting properties of salt.
Scientists are coming up with new ways to improve road safety
The Washington State Department of Transportation has gotten creative in the past with its de-icing solutions. In 2008, the department dumped a mixture of saltwater, calcium chloride, and de-sugared molasses on White Pass—a remarkably effective solution, but not one allowed in Seattle because of its high salt content.
Scientists have been looking into alternative substances to spread on hazardous roads. Magnesium chloride can combat ice, but it also weakens concrete, leaving it brittle and prone to damage. Pavement can be designed with nano-particles that reduce ice, but it’s still too costly for widespread use. Scientists are also looking into the possibility of using waste materials from biodiesel industry, the sugar beet refining industry, and the wine industry on roads.
Crashes on icy roads aren’t always legally considered an “Act of God”
Many drivers believe that if they’re involved in a crash in an icy road, there’s no way to recover damages, even if they weren’t at fault. The truth is that while insurance companies consider severe, freak weather conditions an “Act of God,” drivers who go too fast on icy roads or don’t pay attention to hazardous conditions can still be held liable if they cause an accident.
If you have been injured in an accident caused by a driver who wasn’t taking precautions in winter weather, it may be time to consult a personal injury attorney. Dealing with these claims alone can be difficult, as additional investigation into the facts of the accident may be necessary to prove that your accident wasn’t an “Act of God” but the action of a negligent driver.