The inevitable Tinsmith’s Day

Each year, the State Road Safety Unit updates the statistics on the road accidents caused by icy roads. In mid-October 2020, for example, 44 traffic accidents were registered in the Arctic Circle in just a week with four casualties. In each case, the road police recorded the violation of the rules for winter road maintenance. Aleksei Tarunin, the Head of Road Police for Murmansk Region, told news media the no maintenance works were carried out in the regional and municipal roads. The region lacks cleansing vehicles and qualified staff. As a result, when the roads became icy, the number of traffic accidents went up by 70%. The situation is the same in all the regions where the responsible authorities struggled to deal with their responsibilities. In one of the regions, the number of traffic accidents surged several times as compared to the preceding year. The traffic police and representatives of the specialized authorities noted that the reason was the lack of deicing materials on the roads. Machines and sand failed to ensure the necessary quality of deicing. As a result, the streets were not only covered by sand, but also became a challenge for the drivers and pedestrians. Local authorities were also affected, having received multi-million fines from the road police and orders from the prosecutor’s office.

The price of ice-induced traumas

While the quality of roads cleaning is watched closely, the sidewalks are cleaned based on leftover principle. The experts believe that this situation arises from the failure of the authorities to understand the damage, including economic damage, that is caused by the ice-induced traumas of the pedestrians. Consequently, there is no centralized accounting of the people injured. It is possible to assess the scale of the tragedy only by scattered publications in mass media. But even that is striking. On average, each year up to 7-9 thousand people are injured in the cities with the population ranging from 500,000 to 1.5 million people. 15-20% of them become permanently disabled. In more severe weather conditions, the number of victims may soar. Over half a thousand people may get hurt in just one day in a million-plus city, if the sidewalks are covered with snow and ice. People bear treatment-related costs, while employers and the state incur losses due to the people’s disability. According to the most careful estimates by the Financial University under the Government of Russia, the annual economic damage arising from pedestrians’ ice-induced traumas amounts to about RUB 30 billion, which is, in truth, equal to the annual budget of a large metropolis, such as Kazan. Cleaning sidewalks in winter is the situation where it is possible to save lives and health of the people and prevent economic losses.

Fight for security

Trial and error approach and the conducted researches have made the industry’s specialists conclude that the road maintenance technology needs to be altered. First of all, it is necessary to review the complex for the maintenance of highways and pedestrian areas by actively implementing modern techniques, such as weather forecasting, new types of equipment and deicing materials. Pure mechanical cleaning is not possible in the big cities with dense road and pedestrian traffic. Mechanical cleaning requires a lot of specialized machines, leading to an inevitable chaos at already overcrowded highways. Besides, no city can afford such a large number of specialized vehicles that would be idle for most of the time.

The outdated approach of using salt-sand mix is also ineffective. First, the requirements to the roads maintenance have changed. The roads and sidewalks need to be clean, which is not the case with the salt-sand mix. Another problem is the sand, which subsides in the streets of the country in thousands of tons turning into the dust familiar to many Russians, creating dust storms in spring. When the weather becomes warm, significant efforts and costs are required to collect what is left after winter gritting.

This question was studied in detail in Novosibirsk and it was estimated that after abandoning sand in favour of modern materials the city has been saving much on spring cleaning.

   - We have analysed deicing materials based on sand and salt and came to the conclusion that 80% of them are dust and clay. So, we dumped about 800 truckloads of dust and dirt on the streets of Novosibirsk on the annual basis. Using Bionord has helped us to fight ice faster; we also managed to reduce the dust load on the city, says Iurii Serdyuk, the Head of Roads Department of Novosibirsk.

In practice, so far the battle is won by the modern multi-component deicing materials and an optimal cleaning system that takes into account the number of machinery units for road maintenance, weather trends, terrain and other specifics.

This approach is shared by not only road services, but also by the State Road Safety Unit, which notes that the innovations will allow to materially reduce the number of traffic accidents. For example, in Perm, where the authorities decided to use a multi-component material in the central streets, the number of emergencies caused by the improper state of the roads went down by 34%. In Izhevsk, similar measures in the first quarter of 2020 helped to reduce the number of traffic accidents by 13%. In Kaluga, they plan to increase threefold the quantity of the used deicing products, according to Aleksandr Shpirenko, the Head of Municipal Services Department of Kaluga.