Winter Weather Motorist Safety Tips

The potential for an auto accident during the winter season is concerning no matter where you live. However, the Automobile Collision Attorneys, of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C., feel that the large quantity of streets, roads, and highways, as well as sheer volume of traffic in the Chicagoland area, present unique concerns over the risk for collision associated with winter weather conditions. By taking the proper safety precautions, we can all aide in the reduction and prevention of injuries and fatalities caused in weather-related motor vehicle crashes this winter.

Recently addressed by our Chicago Injury team were the issues of a motorist’s traveling speed in weather-related crashes, as well as winter season tire safety, and the impact that each can have on the prevention of auto collisions. And while speed and tire-related issues are certainly necessary considerations when driving in any type of inclement weather, there are a number of additional factors, which motorists should be aware of when dealing with snow, ice, sleet, and/or slush.

First and foremost, drivers should check weather reports and roadway conditions prior to ever attempting to operate a motor vehicle in inclement winter weather. In Illinois, there are several online sources that provide motorists with up-to-date information regarding roadway conditions in specific areas. For example, ‘Getting Around Illinois,’ is an IDOT-affiliated source, which “is a web-based interactive mapping site that provides the ability to search and display several sources of transportation data. You can find information on winter road conditions, annual average daily traffic, road construction, trucking routes, and planned road projects.”

In addition to common-sense driving tips, such as accelerating and decelerating slowly, avoiding over-steering and/or quick maneuvering, as well as maintaining a safe distance between vehicle, drivers should also be aware of some often over-looked safety tips. For example, cruise-control should not be used when operating a vehicle on slippery surfaces. Further, consider the benefit of maintaining a staggered position between vehicles traveling in the same direction in nearby lanes—doing so can allow a motorist sufficient time to react in the event another driver loses control.

Knowing the braking system that your vehicle is equipped with is critical, because if you find your vehicle is skidding, the manner of braking will depend on whether you have anti-lock brakes (ABS) or non anti-lock brakes. If your vehicle has ABS, drivers should step on the brake pedal, stay on it, and steer around any obstacles. For non-ABS vehicles, drivers should pump the brakes, while keeping their heel on the floor; failure to keep your heel to the floor can cause the brakes to lock up. Most vehicles equipped with ABS will identify this equipment directly on the dashboard of the car, but if you’re unsure check your owner’s manual, or with the vehicle manufacturer.

Newly licensed teen drivers should avoid driving in inclement weather, unless absolutely necessary. Studies have identified several factors linked to winter-weather auto accidents involving novice drivers, such as (1) driver distraction; (2) risk-taking/overconfidence; (3) poor hazard detection/inability to identify potential hazard; (4) low risk perception/underestimation of degree of potential hazard/failure to react properly when presented with hazardous situation; and (5) overall lack of skill/inexperience. Parents are encouraged to educate their teen driver on the dangers of driving in adverse conditions, including the effect of reduced visibility and traction; proper steering and braking habits; use of lights; and assessing traveling speed given the weather conditions. Cyber Drive Illinois offers a Parent-Teen Driving Guide to assist parents in instructing and observing their teen driver.

The combination of fatigued or impaired driving and winter weather can have deadly consequences as well. Illinois crash data shows the increase in car accidents over the holiday season. While many of these collisions are attributed to a motorist becoming fatigued after failing to stop when traveling a significant distance, in some cases, long-distance travel can result in a motorist encountering increasingly inclement weather. Even more concerning is the increase in alcohol-impaired driving collisions that occur in adverse weather conditions, particularly over the holiday season. Alcohol and driving is never a good mix, but impaired driving and bad roadway conditions is an equation for disaster.

The attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. encourage all drivers to practice safe driving habits, take necessary precautions, and when in doubt simply stay off the roadway if possible, this winter season. Doing so can save your life.

 If you were injured in an automobile crash, or a loved one was killed in a fatal accident, contact the Chicago Automobile Collision Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. at 773-516-4100, and allow us to evaluate your case to determine your entitlement to compensation.