Bridges Often Freeze Before Other Parts Of The Road, Here’s Why

January 29, 2023
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When you’re out and about in the winter months there are a number of road hazards that can lead to a New Haven auto accident if you’re not careful.  For instance, you could not be able to see around a corner where there is a snow bank or you can hit the brakes on a patch of ice and skid out of control.  These weather related issues can cause you to get into an accident and be injured or worse.

The problem becomes even greater when you’re crossing a bridge.  You may have seen signs that warn about a bridge being the first part of the road to freeze and therefore put you at greater risk during the winter.  If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably just taken that sign for granted, trusted that it is true and proceeded with extra caution when traversing a bridge.  But why are bridges the first to freeze on the road?  It turns out there is actually a very good reason that is proven time and time again by the science of bridges.

The way bridges are constructed they are losing heat from all sides.  When cold and freezing winds are passing over the bridge and the road on top of the bridge they are cooling the bridge in one direction, however that is not the only place that is being cooled by the freezing temperatures and wind.  The top of the bridge is certainly experiencing strong winds that are cooling the surface of the road, but the way the bridge is structured is also making it so the bottom of the road is being cooled by winds that are passing under the bridge.  This creates a situation where a bridge is getting cooled from all directions of frigid wind conditions and therefore freezes at a much faster rate then the road leading up to the bridge.

Roads on the other hand have the cold air blowing across the top of them, but they are also firmly situated in the ground where the warmth of the Earth is protecting the bottom side of the road from getting too cold.  Therefore, the road is only being cooled from the top and there is some level of warmth radiating it from below the road keeping it from freezing as fast as a bridge.

Another reason that bridges have a tendency to freeze before the roads that lead up to them is that more often then not bridges are crossing over bodies of water that are often colder then the air around them.  This added layer of atmospheric cold can lead to additional chill being added to the already difficult conditions that circulate around a bridge due to it’s structural layout.  Combining the conditions that already exist due to the way a bridge is constructed with the location of the bridge can often lead to a bridge freezing well before the other road around it.

The final reason bridges have a tendency to freeze faster during the winter months is the materials that are used to construct the bridge.  For instance, many bridges are constructed using steel and concrete which are both materials that do not retain heat.  While the surface of a bridge may be constructed using asphalt which is a material that retains heat, the structural construction of a bridge is made with materials that do not retain heat and therefore when cold weather conditions are introduced to this type of construction material a bridge’s surface is likely to freeze more quickly.

As a driver of a motor vehicle it is important to take these differences into account when driving over a bridge and approach a bridge, especially in the winter months with greater caution so that you can avoid a New Haven auto accident while crossing one of the local bridges.  It is important for you to drive slowly and give yourself enough space between you and the car in front of you to make sure you are protecting yourself behind the wheel.

If you do get into an accident you may need to speak with an attorney who has experience in similar cases.  Contact our office and one of our attorneys will speak with you to learn about your situation.