Parking Lot Safety In the Winter

Regardless of where you are in the US, winter is usually a colder, wetter season. This poses various risks for safety on just about any type of pavement.

Whether you live in the Southern US, where winter is mild but wet, or the North, where freezing temperatures and feet of snow can grind life to a halt, winter poses its own unique set of challenges. One of the biggest challenges paving contractors face is handling winter damage and preparing asphalt for bad weather. At Reliable Paving, we are experts on how winter weather affects asphalt paving. We’ve seen it all, from water damage to potholes to frost heave. We’ve compiled a set of guidelines to make it easier to handle winter weather, both this year and next.

What to do before winter

You can prepare for the oncoming inclement weather and low light in advance. It will help you deal with winter’s other challenges.

Inspect your lot

Walk around the parking lot. Check out the premises. Look for various things that are out of order. Look for areas that can be improved.

  • Check for debris that is on the lot. Things already cluttering the lot will only be more problematic under a covering of snow and ice. Clear up what you can.
    • If you notice certain areas always seem to collect debris, it may be worth upgrading your drainage system. Another idea would be to do more frequent maintenance/cleaning to remove detritus.
  • Check for areas where visibility is bad. Things like faded signs, light-up signs whose lights no longer work, faded lot striping, etc. make it harder to get around the lot. When people are confused and don’t know where to go, they are more distracted. Distracted drivers are more prone to accidents.
    • Legally, you don’t want someone possibly suing you because they were hit by a driver who couldn’t see where he/she was going because of damaged signage.
  • Look for existing damage. Cracks, potholes, depressions, uneven ground, and more are usually attributable to liquids getting inside the pavement. The number one reason that parking lots get damaged is liquids inside the paving. When any liquid, but especially water, gets inside of asphalt or concrete, it expands and contracts as the temperature changes. Asphalt and concrete are not particularly flexible, so that’s where the damage really happens. This problem is exacerbated by winter’s freezing temperatures. Small cracks now can lead to big structural damage later on.
    • Patch up your potholes and cracks before winter starts. A lot of paving work can only be done when the temperature is above 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degree Celsius). This means that even autumn isn’t a good season for repairs in many places.

Protect your parking with preventative maintenance

  • Sealcoat your parking lot. This is something you should do every few years anyway. Not only will it prevent damage from water, but it also protects from one of the most damaging things in nature – UV light from the sun. Sealcoating prevents the pavement from turning gray and developing cracks, a sign of oxidation (more commonly known as rust). Most paving is already sealed from water to a certain extent. But, a parking lot is different, from striping paint to leaking car fluids, parking lots are hit by many strong solvents. Dripping brake fluid, oil, and the like can easily build up and cause damage, especially when a leaky car is parked overnight or longer. Sealcoating is your solution to this. It protects you from water, UV, and leaks from various cars. A good sealcoating, combined with maintenance, can make your lot last 20 to 30 years.
    • How often should I sealcoat? You should do it every 2-4 years. But this depends on your location. In places with harsher climates, freezing weather, more intense sun and/or precipitation, every 2 years might be best. In dry, cool locations with moderate climates, every 4 years will suffice.

What to do during the winter

  • Stay on top of cleaning and clearing. Winter is a time for storms, snow, and heavy wind. Things like tree branches will blow into your lot, and it’s up to you to make sure they don’t stay there. Debris in a parking area is dangerous because it can cause flat tires, other car damage, and pedestrians can trip over it. It’s all made worse if it snows over the existing debris. Don’t forget to have a snow plow company on-call if it snows by you. On top of clearing snow, you should have some kind of salt or other mechanism to clear ice and prevent slippage.
  • Make sure your lot is well-lit. Winter is darker, and when snow/debris covers the lot, stripes may not be visible. Inspect the lot frequently to make sure your lights are working, things are clearly visible, and any lit signs are still lit. Clearly-lit signs are also a legal requirement in many lots. Not only is it more dangerous for pedestrians and motorists to not have them, but you also risk legal action.
  • You may need to change the traffic flow in the parking area. Nobody wants cars skidding around on ice/snow, so you may need to put some entry only/exit only signs up to have a clear and simple flow of traffic in the parking lot.

Winter isn’t the only time maintenance is important

At Reliable Paving we are experts on all kinds of ways to take care of your asphalt, concrete, and paving of any kind. Whether it’s pothole repair, laying new asphalt altogether, or crack sealing, we are ready. Our 35+ years in the industry combined with our large, professional team means that no project is too big for us to complete on-budget, and on-time. Visit our website and take a look at our services and past projects, and if you think we fit the bill, send us a message today. We look forward to providing you with the best paving and asphalt work that money can buy.