Wintertime Vehicle Safety
December 22, 2017
As winter approaches, so do hazardous road conditions that lead to car accidents and result in serious injuries or death. According to data from the Department of Transportation (DOT), over 192,000 individuals sustain nonfatal injuries and 2,200 others are killed in wintertime auto accidents annually. With nearly 70% of the U.S. population living in areas that experience snowfall, ice, sleet and/or other hazardous road conditions, everyone can benefit from learning more about the dangers of cold weather driving as well as how local and statewide agencies work to limit travel risks.
Certain weather conditions are particularly hazardous for drivers. When sleet, slush, ice, snow and/or hail are present, a vehicle’s overall maneuverability decreases, which means that visibility and the ability to brake and turn is limited. For those who are considering buying or leasing a car, the National Safety Council (NSC) recommends searching for models equipped with traction control. Traction control is a feature that helps cars gain traction on slippery surfaces.
Maintaining roadways is one constructive way to reduce the number of accidents that happen. To help achieve this goal, the DOT allocates over $2.3 billion dollars to snow maintenance across the country each year; on statewide levels, that’s approximately 20% of the total transportation budget. The funds are used for a variety of snow control operations, but it remains crucial for individuals who get behind the wheel to take extra precautions and do their best to drive safely.
It’s important to remember that it takes longer to travel during inclement weather conditions and to leave a bit of wiggle room in your schedule. Congestion on slippery roadways can be particularly dangerous due to the chance of a car sliding or skidding and being unable to come to a full stop. Just like it takes longer to get from point A to B, all drivers should take extra time to accelerate and decelerate at reduced speeds. The American Automobile Association (AAA) notes that accelerating slowly is helpful when a car loses traction and that braking in advance (for upcoming red lights, stopped vehicles, stop signs, etc.) is a good way to avoid the pitfalls of braking too fast on an icy road.
Since slippery surfaces make cars work harder to gain traction, the AAA recommends leaving at least eight-to-ten seconds of space in between two vehicles so that drivers have a sufficient amount of time to react and respond. However, leaving adequate space between vehicles isn’t the only precautionary measure that drivers can take. Here are a few more useful tips on how to drive safely throughout the winter (e.g. snow, sleet, ice, slush) weather from the AAA:
- Avoid using cruise control on slippery surfaces;
- Ensure that tires are inflated in accordance with vehicle guidelines;
- Always wear a seat belt;
- If you’re tired, don’t drive (this can further reduce reaction and braking times);
- Make sure the gas tank is at a minimum one-half full to keep fuel from freezing;
- Drive slowly no matter what;
- If you’re able to avoid stopping, do so, and:
- Stay home if you don’t absolutely have to drive somewhere
There’s also a cold weather hazard that many people may not suspect: the increased risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. It might seem like a good way to avoid the low temperature outside is by heating a vehicle up inside the garage (or any kind of enclosed space), but doing that can be deadly and should always be avoided. Whenever a car engine is turned on, it’s necessary for there to be adequate ventilation to inhibit the hazards of being exposed to carbon monoxide – this means that that very least, a door to the outside needs to be open.
While winter brings about plenty of fun activities, the road conditions that come along with it tend to lead to a high number of fatal and nonfatal car accidents every year. If a person is in a nonfatal car accident, some of the most common injuries sustained include:
- Abdominal or pelvic injuries;
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) and concussions;
- Broken bones;
- Back and chest injuries
Statewide agencies like the DOT treat lots of roadways before, during and after winter storms or heavy snowfall to reduce accident risks for drivers. Even with de-icing measures in place, in particularly cold temperatures roads (especially those with bridges) can remain icy. Whether or not snow removal crews plow streets and highways, be wary of black ice; black ice is especially hard to see and is the cause behind many unintentional skid outs.
Accidents will always happen but there are lots of ways to reduce the dangers for drivers and passengers traveling on American roadways. Taking extra time in the cold weather to reduce overall speeds, maintaining 8 to 10 seconds of distance in between every vehicle and opting for features like traction control if possible are all useful ways to make accidents less likely. If you or a loved one has been in a car accident and has any legal questions about the injuries sustained, please contact our firm.
Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Represent Victims of Car Accidents
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, please call our Philadelphia car accident lawyers at Galfand Berger. With offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.