Winter Road Maintenance

As might be expected, wintertime gives rise to not only a heightened number of traffic accidents, but accidents with a very specific set of considerations. Slipperiness, more properly referred to as surface friction, is an area of much deliberation, testing, and study at FDi. Since our inception, we have taken great strides to determine the appropriate surface friction for various conditions. We consult existing literature, perform our own controlled tests and model the surface as close as possible to the actual in order to fully understand what role friction would have played with respect to accident causation.

At FDi, our efforts in this area do not stop at the determination of friction as is typical of forensic engineering firms in North America. Rather, we have become pioneers and leading researchers in the area of winter road maintenance. Specifically, we take the investigation of the roadway friction and the condition of the roadway to the next level, assimilating forecasts, meteorological data and maintenance procedures with the physical evidence. For example, once the road surface has been determined (based on temperature and moisture conditions, among other things), we go one step further and attempt to answer the question, "What should the road condition have been?"

Regardless of whether we act for plaintiff or defence parties in a winter road maintenance claim, if it is determined that the roadway was iced over, we must further examine whether or not this was a predicted or forecasted event, or if it happened by chance circumstances. In this regard, it is specifically not correct methodology to use "Monday morning quarterback critiques"; rather, we use a seasoned, 'reasonable' assessment by attempting to put ourselves in the position of a maintenance manager who elected to perform or not to perform the various winter maintenance activities. These involve putting oneself back in time when the decision was made (i.e., using forecasts as opposed to actual weather reports). Further, we look at what equipment was available to the maintenance manager, and what trained operators were standing by. The size of the maintenance jurisdiction and the contract or policies/procedures are examined to determine if the maintenance district had the necessary equipment, experienced personnel, and the knowledge required to complete the task, according to their specific guidelines. In this regard, we also examine whether training procedures were in place, and whether the appropriate maintenance technique was used (Should they have salted? Should they have sanded? etc.). The result is a comprehensive, informed and reasonable assessment of the conditions, resources available, decisions made and consequences with regard to a specific incident or event.