In the next year, what’s the most likely weather danger that will pose a real threat to you? Is it this (tornado)? Or maybe this (hurricane)? How about this (flood)? Or this (lightning)? While all of those are legitimate dangers, you might be surprised that there’s an even more sinister weather-related hazard looming in your future – one that most people in the United States will encounter at least once a year. It’s the icy bridge. On average, icy bridges kill and injure more people every year than tornadoes, lightning or floods combined. Take a look at these stats. Even in “Tornado Alley”, you’re more likely to suffer injury or death from an icy bridge than from severe storms and tornadoes. So what can you do to prepare for this little-talked about, underrated killer? In this video, we’ll cover what you need to know. This is Dan Robinson with You see these signs all the time. But what do they mean? A bridge, surrounded by air on all sides, cools rapidly when temperatures drop – unlike the surrounding roads, which are more insulated by the ground below them. The result? A road surface that goes from normal to treacherous – instantly. Icy bridges often strike without warning, sending a vehicle out of control before the driver even realizes the danger is there. This element of surprise means accidents tend to happen at highway speeds, with serious consequences. There are four key characteristics of bridge icing to keep in mind. First, it doesn’t take much snow or ice to make a bridge dangerously slick. This one is a good example. It doesn’t look that bad, does it? Until… The rest of the roads can be wet or dry. You can drive for many miles before encountering a bridge. One can easily catch you by surprise if you aren’t paying attention to the conditions. Ice on bridges can be either visible or invisible. Snow cover is easier to see, but freezing rain and freezing drizzle create hard to see – sometimes impossible to see – ice. Loss of control on a bridge can happen in two stages. There’s the initial slide on ice, then there’s the sudden grip as the vehicle moves off of the ice and back onto pavement. When it comes to staying safe from icy bridges, there are four basic points 1. Stay aware of the potential for icy bridges by checking weather conditions before you get on the road. 2. Know the warning signs that can signal the potential for icy bridges. 3. Reduce your speed when icing is possible, and 4. whenever possible, avoid major bridges on your route. You could end up stuck – or worse, in the middle of a pileup! When bridge icing is widespread, it might be best to just postpone your travel, as highways could be shut down from multiple accidents. Watch for these icy bridge warning signs: Any precipitation when temperatures are near or below freezing. That can include snow, sleet, rain, drizzle, or even fog. Any forecast for snow, sleet, freezing rain, freezing fog, or freezing drizzle. Ice forming on your windshield wipers, antennas, windows or side mirrors. And finally, ice or snow sticking to anything on the ground, especially signs, guardrails, grass or your vehicle. The general rule is: if ice is forming on anything you see, it could also be forming on bridges and roads. If you see an icy bridge ahead, don’t panic. Slow down before you drive onto the bridge. Ease off the gas, and coast across. Avoid braking, changing lanes, or accelerating on the bridge. If you’re already on the bridge, don’t attempt to slow down – just coast. Do not brake, don’t steer and don’t accelerate – those are all actions that can trigger a slide. If you do slide, again, don’t panic. Don’t hit your brakes, turn into the slide, and prepare for sudden tire grip when leaving the ice. If all else fails and you do have an accident, first and foremost, be aware of additional out of control vehicles. You’re not going to be the only one to hit that patch of ice. Many injuries and deaths occur from secondary or follow-up collisions, especially when people exit their vehicles and stand in the middle of the road. If your vehicle is still driveable, move it away from the scene and far off of the road. The simple presence of your vehicle on or near the road could trigger more accidents. Don’t exit your vehicle unless you can quickly get off of the roadway. Make sure that there’s no traffic approaching. Get behind a guardrail, jersey barrier, or up on an embankment – anything that will get you out of the way of additional out-of-control vehicles. Keep in mind that many highway bridges have gaps in between them. Fatalities happen almost every year from falls. Again, I can’t say it enough: never get out and stand in the road. Your car can withstand the impact from another vehicle much better than your body can! If you live in a region where sand is used instead of salt to treat bridges, keep in mind that sand does not melt the ice, it only serves to provide a small amount of traction to keep traffic moving. A sanded bridge is still very slick and dangerous, and requires reduced speed to negotiate safely. This accident happened on a bridge that was sanded. Bridge icing and icy roads in general should be a top concern for you and your family when driving during the winter months – commanding the same level of respect as tornadoes, flash floods and other forms of extreme weather. If you stay aware of the conditions, and reduce speed when icing threatens, you’ll avoid becoming another statistic of this underrated hazard. (on-scene cameraman voice) “Well folks, you’ve heard me say it a hundred times, and here it is: worse than tornadoes, worse than hurricanes: this is an icy bridge.” “Freezing rain.” “Very difficult to see, extremely treacherous, life-threatening.” “I don’t know if you can see me sliding there.” “Obviously, you saw what could happen.”