There’s something really lovely about freshly fallen snow. It makes everything bright and clean looking, and it’s perfect for snow angels and forts. But as any local can tell you, it doesn’t take long for that snow to get packed down and muddy. Throw in some sand on the road, and you’re officially in snirt territory.
The term “snirt,” a combination of “snow” and “dirt,” characterizes the unique seasonal challenges faced by residents and drivers in North Dakota. As the snowy weather approaches, the state experiences the commencement of snirt season, marking the onset of serious weather—and road conditions. This time of year, drivers need to be extra careful and stay on their toes while traveling during the snowy season. Although drivers in North Dakota are used to weather like this, just knowing how to drive on roads covered in snirt simply isn’t enough to stay safe. Actually, being too sure of yourself is a big reason why car accidents happen when the roads are dangerous.
What makes snirt so dangerous?
As snow accumulates, it tends to compress, resulting in increased slipperiness and diminished traction for vehicles. This diminished traction makes it challenging for vehicles to maintain control, especially during turns or abrupt maneuvers. The slippery quality of snirt only amplifies the risk of skidding and sliding, heightening the likelihood of accidents on the roads in Minot. Drivers navigating through snirt-filled areas must exercise extreme caution, adapting their driving habits to the slippery conditions to lessen the potential dangers associated with decreased traction.
Salting roads for traction is not an always option
In urban areas road salt is frequently used as a way to de-ice the roads, but it’s just not that effective on gravel and dirt roads, where salt poses a unique threat. The issue lies in salt’s tendency to soak into and fail to bond with the gravel surface, penetrating the gravel surface and contributing to the formation of potholes over time.
Additionally, salt has the capacity to melt the top layer of the road. This melting effect has adverse consequences on the overall road structure. As the top layer melts, it disrupts the road’s natural composition, causing it to become uneven and compromising its structure. The use of salt transforms both gravel and dirt roads into a maintenance challenge, creating an uneven surface that compromises the road’s integrity—and leads to accidents.
So in a lot of our state, roads are sanded, not salted. But that poses risks, too. Unlike salt, which leaves a visible residue, sand is less conspicuous, making it difficult for drivers to be able to tell whether a road has been treated or not. (Eventually it becomes pretty obvious, but that initial layer can be hard to spot, even for experienced drivers.)
Heavy vehicles and the dangers of snirt on Minot roads
Heavy vehicles, particularly large trucks, frequently encounter challenges between October and March, according to the 2021 North Dakota Crash Summary. In total, there were 734 large truck crashes that resulted in 273 injuries and 11 fatalities. The considerable weight of these trucks, combined with adverse winter conditions, often results in reduced traction on the road.
The sheer size of these vehicles can make it difficult for them to drive safely, particularly if the road conditions are uncertain. Since more rural-type roads may not always be clearly marked or treated with sand, truck drivers may face the dilemma of not knowing if the roads are safe to drive on. This uncertainty significantly affects their ability to gauge and respond to the road’s slipperiness, increasing the risk of serious truck accidents in Minot.
Tips for snirt season survival
Safely traveling the roads during snirt season demands a practical approach to ensure road safety. It’s always important to practice safe driving year-round, but it’s especially important during the slushy wintery weather in North Dakota when serious car accidents can happen.
First and foremost, drivers are advised to:
- Reduce speed
- Increase distance between vehicles
- Equip vehicles with suitable tires and snow chains
- Regularly check road condition updates
However, it is equally as important for drivers to be prepared for unexpected situations. Having emergency equipment readily available can be a lifesaver in the event of an accident. This includes having an emergency hammer, which can be instrumental in breaking windows and cutting seat belts in situations where you become trapped within your vehicle after an accident. Keeping a full winter emergency kit with essential items, like cat litter, flashlight, and a first aid kit, only further ensures preparedness.
If you or a family member have suffered injuries in a car accident during snirt season, the experienced legal team at Larson Law Firm, PC is ready to help. Reach out to us today to discuss your case and we’ll help you understand the potential compensation you may be awarded for your injuries. To arrange a complimentary consultation, contact our offices or fill out our contact form. We handle accident cases on a contingency fee basis. Car accident cases are never battles you want to fight alone. With offices in Fargo, Bismarck, and Minot, our dedicated team is here to support you every step of the way.