Road salt supplies crucial to winter safety

(BPT) – Each winter, drivers from Maine to Texas are reminded just how dependent we are on our cars, and what happens when snow and ice get in the way. More than 116,000 Americans are injured and over 1,300 are killed on snowy, slushy or icy pavement every winter. Snowfighters tasked with the job of keeping travelers safe know that road salt is the most effective way to treat road surfaces. A Marquette University study examined highway accidents in snow and found that road salt reduced crashes by up to 88 percent, and injuries and accident costs were reduced by as much as 85 percent.

Another study from the University of Waterloo on the safety impacts of using deicing salt before and after a snow event on four-lane highways found that it reduced accidents by up to 93 percent. Untreated roads also carry a significant economic cost. According to a Global Insight study, a one-day major snowstorm can cause a state $300-$700 million in direct and indirect costs. According to James Gillula, the principal researcher of the study, “Lost wages of hourly workers account for about two-thirds of the direct economic impact of a major snowstorm. Among all workers, hourly wage workers can suffer the most painful economic losses.”

A few winters ago, residents of Atlanta were hit with an ice storm and experienced what happens without road salt to keep streets clear. Children had to spend the night at school sleeping on gym mats when buses could not safely get them home. Workers became stranded in their cars for hours as traffic became completely gridlocked due to accidents and many vehicles were left abandoned. News reports were filled with images of people sleeping on the floors of area grocery stores.

Across the country, news accounts are highlighting the importance of salt as agencies prepare for winter. “It is important for municipalities and Departments of Transportation to have sufficient inventories before the start of the winter season. The Salt Institute recommends a complete year of inventory on hand before the start of the season, based on usage during a severe winter,” said Lori Roman, president of the Salt Institute.

The Salt Institute promotes the latest environmentally-friendly application technologies and management practices with its “Safe and Sustainable Snowfighting” program and award. The Institute also partners with other organizations like the Ontario Good Roads Association and the American Public Works Association to provide training and information to snowfighters across the United States and Canada. To learn more, visit www.saltinstitute.org.