Driving Speed in Weather-Related Crashes

As the season of gloom and doom starts, the Chicago Automobile Collision Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. remind motorists to use caution when traveling in inclement weather. According to the Federal Highway Administration, close to 6 million accidents occur each year, and of these, nearly a quarter are weather-related. NHTSA reports that more than 6,000 persons are killed, and close to half a million people sustain injury due to weather-related crashes, on average, each year. Although a large percentage such accidents are attributed to rainfall, many car wrecks also occur due to winter weather conditions (i.e. snow, sleet, ice, slush).

While seemingly obvious, speed is an important factor to take into consideration during inclement weather, and should be assessed in terms of both visibility reduction, as well as roadway/ pavement conditions. In inclement weather, a motorist’s ‘reasonableness’ is a far more significant factor than are posted speed restrictions. Pursuant to Sec. 11-601(a), of Illinois Vehicle Code, which pertains to general speed restrictions:

“No vehicle may be driven upon any highway of this State at a speed which is greater than is reasonable and proper with regard to traffic conditions and the use of the highway, or endangers the safety of any person or property. The fact that the speed of a vehicle does not exceed the applicable maximum speed limit does not relieve the driver from the duty to decrease speed when approaching and crossing an intersection, approaching and going around a curve, when approaching a hill crest, when traveling upon any narrow or winding roadway, or when special hazard exists with respect to pedestrians or other traffic or by reason of weather or highway conditions. Speed must be decreased as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any person or vehicle on or entering the highway in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of all persons to use due care.” [Emphasis added]

Noting the emphasized portions of the statute, determining the reasonableness of one’s traveling speed requires an assessment of all attendant circumstances. Studies have shown that, depending on the conditions, a driver’s speed may need to be reduced by as much as 50% or more than the posted limit. However, what may be reasonable for one particular driver, may not be reasonable for another (i.e. a vehicle equipped with snow tires versus a small passenger vehicle or vehicle with worn tread on tires). Likewise, what may be reasonable for one weather-condition, may not be reasonable in another (i.e. heavy snow versus light snow versus ice-covered roadway surfaces; cleared roadways versus non-cleared roadways).

Often time, a driver’s speed can combine with other factors that cause or contribute to an accident. Just a few include, tire-related issues, improper vehicle maneuvering, as well as driver impairment, fatigue, inexperience, or distractions, such as texting while driving.

Given inclement weather related crash data, and with weather forecasts predicting snow in the coming weeks, we hope that motorists take the necessary precautions to ensure their own safety, as well as that of other motorists that share our roadways. Our Chicago personal injury team wholeheartedly believes that the prevention of accidents, injuries, and fatalities requires a concerted effort amongst all road-users to remain aware of incidental factors associated with the reasonable operation of a motor vehicle.

In the unfortunate event you or a loved one were involved in an automobile collision, protecting your legal rights should be the next step following emergency medical treatment. Our veteran attorneys are here to help. Contact Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. today, either online, or by calling us at 773-516-4100.