This smart technology can help reduce Ohio car accidents in winter
Deaths and injuries that occur from winter weather hardly get as much attention on the news as other natural disasters, such as hurricanes and tornadoes. But severely cold weather actually accounts for almost a quarter of traffic crashes in the United States. Not to mention, Ohio has become the worst state for car accidents during the winter months. In this blog, we talk about Ohio car accidents and the new smart intersection technology currently being tested in Marysville. It will hopefully reduce deaths and injuries from snowy weather to create a safer and smarter travel experience nationwide. We also take a glance at the other efforts by DriveOhio that can help reduce violent pileups on major highways. Lastly, we provide tips for driving in bad weather.
What counts as bad weather in the winter?
Before we get into giving you the nitty gritty details of mixing winter weather and pavements, why don’t we clarify some of these similar terms:
- Icy roads: when frozen water is blanketed across the roads (also known as black ice since it’s difficult to see on the black pavement)
- Sleet: when ice pellets are scattered throughout the street
- Slushy: when snow and water make a slurry mixture (think of slushies)
- Snow: when ice crystals fall into light white flakes
These winter weather conditions account for about 24 percent of traffic crashes, particularly on snowy, slushy or icy pavements. Snowfall or sleet accounts for about 15 percent, where around 900 people are killed and about 76,000 people are injured in crashes every year.
Any of these conditions on the roads make it difficult to maneuver any vehicle safely and are the causes for most Ohio car accidents in the winter. Unfortunately, the amount of anticipation and preparation for each condition still cannot influence a driver’s behavior to prevent deaths and injuries.
Did you know?
In the United States, there are more than 1,300 people that are killed and over 116,000 people that are injured every year in car crashes because of icy, slushy or snowy roads. That’s nearly the population size of the entire city of Dayton, Ohio, every single year! There is a vast number of deaths and injuries related to bad winter weather.
But, why? Our best guess is that over 70 percent of the nation has roads in places that receive more than five inches of snow annually, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration.
Ohio ranked No. 1 for the most winter driving accidents
A lot of the deadlier Ohio car accidents happen in the winter. In 2015, there were almost 150 deadly crashes in the state of Ohio that happened during snowy or icy road conditions. Not surprisingly, they also had the most winter driving accidents than any other state, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
On average, the state has 86 deadly accidents every year because of severe winter weather. The Ohio Department of Public Safety reports that in 2017, snowy roads caused more than 13,000 crashes resulting in 26 deaths and more than 2,800 injuries. To add to the scope of how dangerous winter is in Ohio, the state becomes the deadliest state for winter car accidents with more than 420 deaths in five years.
What’s being done to help Ohio?
One of the latest and most interesting ways that the state is trying to help prevent Ohio car accidents in inclement weather (and overall) is by installing a new technology that’s smart enough to warn you about the following, and possibly more if:
- the roads are icy
- a driver a few cars in front of you slams on their brakes
- cars at the upcoming intersection will run a red light
- pedestrians are on the sidewalk where a driver plans to make a right turn
What exactly is this new smart technology?
It’s technically called vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication. It’s designed for short-range communication that exchanges information using a WiFi derivative meant for fast-moving objects. The information it exchanges is the data that it collects from a vehicle’s position and speed in relevance to its surrounding vehicles and infrastructures.
Creators of the smart technology are hoping to reduce fatalities and injury severity that result from traffic collisions. They also hope to improve the flow of traffic by warning drivers of upcoming traffic congestion and showing alternative routes, similar to current GPS apps.
The activity and process inside of the intersection camera gets pretty technical. But it’s worth explaining. Basically, there will be four cameras at an intersection, one at each light. They’ll capture the video image of moving objects and “feed” it into the vision processing system. Once it quickly classifies these objects (i.e. this is a car, this is a person, etc.), they are transformed into sets of messages that are constantly broadcasted over the air. The connected vehicles nearby will receive the messages in the form of an icon on their windshields.
Who is behind this project?
DriveOhio, local partners and Honda are collaborating to test this smart technology in Marysville, Ohio.
- DriveOhio is a program supported by the Ohio Department of Transportation. Because Ohio is home to several public and private entities that design, develop and test autonomous and connected technologies, Ohio decided to create this program to bring together all of these organizations under one umbrella. The program is dedicated to advancing smart mobility in Ohio by its willingness to be a one-stop shop for developing, testing and deploying advanced mobility solutions.
- Honda also has manufacturing and research facilities around Marysville, Ohio. In fact, they demonstrated the communication technology in Marysville back in October 2018. The company calls it the “‘Smart Intersection’ technology” in a press release, pointing out its very own proprietary recognition software working together with V2X communication technology inside of intersection-mounted cameras. This collaboration will allow cars to “virtually see through and around buildings and walls in virtually all weather conditions to help identify and alert drivers to otherwise hidden hazards.”
How is Ohio testing this device?
An Ohio city is the guinea pig for testing this new vehicle technology that will hopefully shape the future of transportation nationwide. The video below describes a busy intersection in Marysville, where all four corners have stores and pedestrians that may be prone to Ohio car accidents. They decided to choose this intersection because the corner stores block the drivers’ views.
A chief engineer at Honda specifies that the key part of the communication technology is that it senses things you can’t see, and it’ll allow drivers to become aware of the situation much earlier. Intersection collisions account for 20 percent of traffic-related deaths in America every year.
How exactly does it alert the driver?
So, here’s the catch. This smart intersection technology will work only if your vehicle is “connected.” In the video, it looks like if you’re vehicle is connected, then you’ll be sent a small icon that pops up on your windshield with two subtle beeping sounds followed by a voice alert.
However, other sources say that this alert might be displayed on their current navigation screen. The beauty of this idea is that if a vehicle is connected, then it doesn’t have to count on other vehicles to be connected in order to benefit from the technology. But this doesn’t mean that other drivers can’t benefit from it either.
If you have prior knowledge of a pedestrian crossing or someone a few cars ahead who slammed on their brakes, then you could have saved a potential accident from happening. Think of it as a domino effect. However, the question stands on how to accommodate for the unconnected vehicles since the ultimate goal is to implement this kind of communication nationwide. One idea to get drivers accustomed to this technology is to put aftermarket kits in their cars so that they’ll be able to read and understand it better.
What are the naysayers saying? And are they wrong? There are always people out there who will oppose technological advancements.
Opponents of the V2X communication technology are arguing that a simple roundabout will eliminate intersection collisions as well as maintenance and electricity costs for the city. Adding four sensors to every intersection with V2X communication technology would be really expensive for the city to maintain and operate compared to a simple roundabout, indeed! However, believe it or not, many drivers get confused by roundabouts because they’re not as common in the United States.
Other naysayers wish for smarter drivers, not smarter cars. The argument here is that we need to increase and improve driver training. Not only will this ideally lead to safer drivers, but it will also lower car insurance rates because there would be safer drivers on the road.
But as society advances to self-driving vehicles, this does not seem plausible. Not to mention, it isn’t possible to know whether or not people will practice what they learn during driver training. Drivers are more likely to listen and react to alert icons on the windshield because it doesn’t require as much thinking and decision making as it would without them.
Other efforts to help prevent Ohio car accidents
The DriveOhio program is also looking to implement other devices to prevent Ohio car accidents and potential traffic deaths in its busiest areas. According to a report from Accuweather, Executive Director of DriveOhio, Jim Barna, plans to focus on one corridor in particular. Interstate 90, just east of Cleveland, has some of the most inclement weather from the lake-effect snow that comes from Lake Erie. The highway has had major pileups with some that involved up to 70 cars.
Aside from the V2X communication technology, DriveOhio efforts to prevent these collisions from happening include:
- Digital speed limit signs so that the city can change the speed limit according to the weather
- Advanced weather sensors to identify weather changes that would improve visibility and road conditions
- Using the data from each vehicle that can help traffic management centers make adjustments from re-timing traffic lights to opening the shoulder to traffic or changing speed limits to help with heavy traffic
Tips for driving in bad weather
Ohio car accidents can be deadly. We think that it’s ideal that no one should be driving in severe winter weather. However, we do know that this is unrealistic, which is why we are including this section. Let’s use the four bad weather conditions that we listed earlier to provide tips on how to drive in each one.
- Drive slowly and steadily. Drive at a speed at least less than 10 mph than the speed limit on icy roads. Your tires can actually lose traction and spin out of control if you aren’t very careful.
- Black ice is another serious concern. Black ice is ice that’s on the road but you can’t see it because it’s clear and blends in with the color of the road. It can be found usually in areas constantly surrounded by cold air and/or areas with no sun exposure, such as underpasses, bridges and elevated ramps. It can also be found on outside lanes of multi-lane roads and at the bottom of hills because water will slide down the slope and accumulate into frozen water.
- Since black ice is difficult to see, it’s also scary when you realize that you’re approaching it. Something helpful to keep in mind is that during the day, black ice can reflect the sunlight. At night, it can reflect a car’s headlights. Lastly, if you realize that the tires of the vehicles in front of you have stopped spraying water, then they may be driving on ice.
- During winter, rain changes to sleet often. This reduces a driver’s ability to see the roads but makes it very slippery at the same time. This can cause a vehicle to hydroplane, which is basically when your car skates on ice. If you happen to hydroplane, then take your foot off of the accelerator but steer as you would in the direction where you want to go.
- Reduce your speed significantly (by at least 10 mph). You can lose traction in your tires. Some cars are equipped with traction control or winter mode. Avoid sudden moves when steering and avoid being too close to the cars around you.
- Drive at a slow and steady pace as far from other cars as you can in order to avoid sliding into them. Be extra careful when you hit the brake and when you turn. If you can, avoid hitting the break and taking off your foot from the accelerator instead. Your following distance should be very far from the car ahead of you.