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Name: Sarin
Status: Student
Grade: 6-8
Location: Outside U.S.
Country: Canada
Date: November 2008


Question:
I live in Toronto and I am wondering what some solutions are for slippery roads in winter?



Replies:
You might be pretty familiar with the most common methods. The most common solution is to add salt (traditional sodium chloride salt might be used, but other salts are possible too). When snow/ice is just a little below its freezing point, salt can lower the melting point and cause the snow to melt. The water can then flow away from the roads or evaporate. If the temperature is too low, the snow won't melt even with salt. Sometimes sand, gravel, or other abrasives are used to increase traction on packed snow. You can buy tires designed for snow, or can put chains or other devices on the tires to improve traction. I don't know the laws in Ontario, but local laws do affect when you can/must use chains or studded tires. There are lots of high tech snow melting ideas out there too, but they are not widely used due to cost and difficulty.

Hope this helps,
Burr Zimmerman


Hi Sarin,

I guess the "smart-alec" answer to your question is, the best solution to slippery winter roads in Toronto is to move out here to Vancouver where all you have to deal with is rain! Just joking!

More seriously, there are not many alternatives to dealing with snow or ice covered roads. The most common method is to salt the roads using common salt (sodium chloride). Salt lowers the freezing point of ice or snow, so when it is applied at temperatures not too far below freezing, the snow will melt. Salting a road with common salt is only useful when temperatures are not lower than -10°C. Some other salts such as calcium chloride can be effective below -10°C, but cause greater problems with corrosion. In addition to corrosion problems, salting roads causes some environmental issues as well.

Sand is also commonly applied to assist in traction, but once the snow finally melts, it can leave the road in a real mess that needs to be cleaned up.

The only other alternative (other than constant plowing) is the use of good winter tires that are made from a hydrophilic rubber formula that does not get so hard when cold, and actually tends to grip ice better than normal tire rubber.

As you can see, the possible options are few indeed, so drivers generally just have to grin and bear it!

Regards,

Bob Wilson



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