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January 8, 2015

Safe Driving During Winter Weather

Winter Driving Tips

During this time of year, a large swatch of the United States is consistently subjected to sub-freezing temperatures, snow, ice, and high winds. As anyone who has driven in a winter storm understands, snow and ice can wreak havoc on the way that a car, truck, or other vehicle handles. In addition, high winds and heavy precipitation can have an extremely detrimental effect on a driver’s ability to see the road in front of him or her. As a result, winter weather can result in significant motor vehicle accidents[1] that may in turn lead to serious injuries. Many of these injuries have the potential to significantly affect a person’s quality of life and may even lead to long-term medical issues that require around-the-clock care.

 

Icy Road hazard

Fortunately for people who live or visit areas where driving in winter weather is unavoidable, there are certain steps that they can take to reduce their risk of being involved in a winter weather accident. The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration[2] advises people who are anticipating driving in winter weather to follow the “three P’s of safe winter driving:” prepare for your drive, protect yourself, and prevent crashes on the road. More information about each aspect of winter weather safety can be found below.

Prepare

In order to prepare for driving in winter weather, drivers can take the following steps:

  • Make sure that your vehicle is properly maintained. This means checking the tire tread, the battery, the windshield wipers, and all fluid levels, as well as other aspects of your vehicle.
  • Have emergency equipment on hand in case that you get stranded out in a storm. Some of the equipment that you should keep in your vehicle includes a flashlight, jumper cables, material that can provide friction for your tires (kitty litter, floor mats), a shovel, ice scraper, flares, and blankets.
  • Plan your route, and avoid poor weather if possible.
  • If you stall, stay with your vehicle and turn on lights in order to attract attention. If you need to run your car, make sure that you clear the tailpipe and only run it enough to stay warm.
  • Practice winter weather driving[3]. During daylight hours, find an empty parking lot or other surface without any crash hazards and practice stopping and turning into a skid.

Protect

Protecting yourself involves making sure that you minimize your risk of injury in the event that you are involved in an accident. Some of the steps that you can take to protect yourself and your family include:

  • Always use your seatbelt
  • Use an appropriate car seat for young children and install it correctly
  • Be aware that children under 12 are generally much safer in the back seat of a vehicle

Prevent crashes

Winter weather conditions can significantly increase a person’s risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident. Some of the ways that you can help prevent accidents include the following:

  • Never drive a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Drive within the speed limit and give other vehicles plenty of room
  • Be aware of pedestrians that may be walking in the road
  • Avoid driving while fatigued. Make sure that you get plenty of rest before taking a trip, stop every three hours, and try and rotate drivers if possible
  • If you plan to drink any alcohol at all, designate a sober driver
  • By following the steps above, a driver can minimize his or her risk of being involved in a winter weather motor vehicle accident.

Winter Weather Accidents may Still Occur

No matter how safe you are when you drive in winter weather, there is always a chance that outside factors can still cause you to be involved in an accident and suffer injuries. Sometimes, you may just unexpectedly hit an ice patch and lose control of your vehicle. In such situations, the incident is likely deemed to be no one’s fault and the accident was simply that—an accident. In other circumstances, other parties may have contributed to the accident through negligent acts or omissions.

 

Winter Road Accident

You can be the safest driver on the road and you will still be unable to control the acts of other drivers. Some drivers may not be as cautious in winter weather conditions and may be overly confident. Such false confidence can lead drivers to speed, engage in distracted driving,[4]and other dangerous behaviors. For example, a road may have a speed limit of 55 miles per hour, though winter weather conditions may cause it to be extremely and obviously dangerous to travel at that speed. If a driver decides to drive 55, loses control, and causes a collision, that driver would likely be found to be negligent[5]In addition to drivers, other parties may also negligently contribute to winter weather accidents. Government entities have the duty to care for roads and make sure they are safe for travel. In the winter, this includes pre-treating the roads to avoid ice build-up, clearing the roads of snow in a timely fashion, and repairing any potholes or cracks that may develop from the cold. If a government fails to adequately take care of the roads and an accident occurs, that entity may be deemed negligent and at fault for any losses that occurred

What kinds of Injuries can People Sustain in Winter Weather Accident?

Winter weather accidents, like other motor vehicle accidents, have the potential of causing serious bodily injury. Because these accident accidents occur in winter weather, however, victims can also be exposed to secondary injury caused by extreme cold[6] or other environmental issues. Some of the more common injuries sustained in winter weather accidents include:

  • Sprains
  • Joint dislocations
  • Frostbite
  • Hypothermia
  • Soft tissue injuries

These injuries can have varying complications, depending on their severity. Many minor injuries may be self-resolving with little or no medical intervention, while more serious injuries may require intensive and long-term medical care. In the most serious cases, victims of winter weather car accidents may be unable to work or return to their everyday lives.

[1] http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/

[2] https://www.osha.gov/

[3] http://exchange.aaa.com/safety/roadway-safety/winter-driving-tips/

[4]http://www.distraction.gov/

[5]http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/negligence

[6] http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/coldstress/

[7] http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/coldstress/

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