During the colder months of the year, those of us who live in the Northeast, like Pittsburgh, have to adjust our driving behaviors – and even use additional items like ice scrapers and snow tires to get around safely. While we are so lucky to live in a beautiful city that has visible seasons to experience, snow and ice on the roads can be extremely dangerous and cause a variety of winter car accidents. When negligent drivers meet dangerous road conditions, they can combine to cause tragic consequences.
Just because snow and ice are involved in your auto wreck does not prevent another driver from being found at fault for causing your injuries. If the other driver was distracted, driving recklessly, failing to follow traffic lights or signs, or engaging in other irresponsible or dangerous behaviors while driving, they and their insurance company can be held legally responsible to pay for all resulting losses from the winter crash.
How To Stay Safe When Driving in the Winter
According to research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, winter storms, bad weather, and atypical road conditions factor into nearly 500,000 car crashes and more than 2,000 road deaths every winter. Winter car accidents can also often have more serious results, causing more severe property damage, serious personal injuries, and even death. In order to have the best possible chance of staying safe from winter car accidents while driving, exercise extra caution in snowy and icy conditions by adjusting your driving in ways such as:
- Having your vehicle winterized
- Letting someone know where you are going and by what route
- Keeping your gas tank full
- Staying alert to your surroundings
- Keeping an emergency kit in your car, including first aid items, blankets, warm clothing, snacks, a flashlight, and more
- Keeping a windshield scraper to remove ice from your windshield and windows
- Driving more slowly than normal
- Ensuring your tires are properly inflated and have sufficient tread
- Not using cruise control
- Reassessing your car battery
- Verifying your auto insurance
- Keeping jumper cables in your vehicle
Why Are Winter Road Conditions So Dangerous?
According to the Federal Highway Administration (FWHA), around 70% of the U.S. population lives in geographic locations that have snowy and icy conditions during the winter months. In addition, 156,164 car wrecks occur annually due to these icy roads. This is because driving on snowy roads can cause your car to take 10 times longer to fully stop as slushy or snowy pavement causes a 30% to 40% speed reduction on major roads. Some of the biggest dangers on winter roads include:
- Black Ice: A cool, light rain at night when temperatures are in the 30s or lower can be followed by temperatures that fall below freezing while road surfaces are still wet, resulting in black ice. Black ice is dangerous and almost impossible to see. It’s not actually black but called black because it’s clear and appears to be the same color as the road. Sliding on black ice can cause your vehicle (or another vehicle nearby) to lose control and spin or crash.
- Lack of Visibility: Snow can cause reduced visibility when driving. Whiteout conditions during snowstorms can make it nearly impossible to see ahead of or behind your vehicle. In addition, pure white snow can reflect an intense glare when sun reflects off of it, which can cause reduced visibility for drivers. Depending on the quantity of snowfall, tall snowbanks can form, causing blind spots and reduced visibility at intersections and in other locations along roads and highways.
- Reduced Effectiveness of Traffic Signals: It takes vehicles longer to safely cross intersections in bad weather, thus drivers have to slow down. Traffic lights and signals are not built to think for themselves and fail to adjust their timing in consideration of winter road conditions.
- Frozen Bridges: Bridges and overpasses freeze more quickly than roads do because they are exposed to air on all surfaces and sides, cooling them down to freezing much more quickly than a road. You should watch out extra closely for them. The surface you are driving on can cause you to lose traction unexpectedly. If you lose control of your vehicle, don’t push hard on the brake pedal. Gently press the brake to see if you can regain control.
Pittsburgh Lawyers for Car Accidents
Winter weather creates unpredictable and dangerous driving conditions. Pennsylvania is the fifth most dangerous state in the entire country for winter driving. So, please be careful when driving on the roads in icy and snowy conditions. If you do get hurt in a roadway collision and you need a Pittsburgh car accident attorney, you can contact us for a free consultation. Our experienced team of personal injury lawyers has handled many auto accident cases involving black ice car crashes.