This paper suggests a cost effective remote sensor for increasing traffic safety by detecting road surface conditions. One limitation of existing systems is the ability to reliably detect the presence of ice and snow on the road surface. By utilizing infrared detectors sensitive in the water absorption spectral range, it is possible to remotely detect the presence of water on a surface. Using the near infrared spectra to detect water is well known, but further research is desired on methods to distinguish water in the form of water, ice and snow. Remote sensors are easy to install and they have low service costs compared to road mounted sensors. Existing remote sensors are currently expensive, but by utilizing cost effective infrared detectors a sensor has been made that can be deployed at any road weather information system. Laboratory results showed that the sensor gave reliable output that distinguishes between the surface conditions dry, wet, snowy and icy.