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Why do bridges become icy before the rest of the road?

On Behalf of | Oct 29, 2022 | Car Accidents

As winter approaches, it cannot hurt to brush up on your winter-driving skills. After all, according to the Federal Highway Administration, almost 25% of weather-associated car accidents happen on icy, slushy or snowy roads. Icy stretches of roadway can appear seemingly out of nowhere, however.

Overpasses and bridges tend to become icy before other stretches of roadways. Therefore, you may encounter slippery ice on a bridge even when the rest of the road appears to be perfectly fine. Why do bridges and overpasses ice over first, though?


Arguably, airflow is the biggest reason bridges and overpasses freeze faster than other parts of the road. As cold air circulates around them, overpasses and bridges can experience a fast drop in temperature. This is not the case with on-the-ground roadways, of course, as these roads have natural insulation from the elements beneath them.


A bridge’s location also can cause it to freeze more rapidly. Because bridges often cross rivers, bays and other bodies of water, they exist in areas of high humidity. Indeed, it is not uncommon for moisture from the water below to cause bridges to freeze quickly. Moreover, cold spots in the water can make the space around a bridge even cooler than the ambient temperature.


Many bridges and overpasses have metal construction. Metal conducts heat well, potentially melting ice that forms on a bridge. When the heat dissipates, though, metal bridges can rapidly refreeze. Alarmingly, it is not uncommon for dangerous black ice to form on overpasses and bridges.

Even though you can take steps to drive responsibly on frozen bridges and overpasses, other drivers may not be so careful. Ultimately, if you suffer a life-altering injury in an accident on an icy bridge, you may have legal grounds to seek significant financial compensation.