Kline Legal Group P.L.C.

How to Stay Safe on the Road this Winter

There's no doubt about it: winter driving can be stressful. Between frozen windshield wipers, impaired visibility, and icy road conditions, even the most skilled road warrior must confront weather-related elements beyond their control-each of which increases the risk of a serious car accident or fatality. Believe it or not, however, messy winter driving conditions don't present the most dangerous driving situation when it comes to serious and fatal car accidents.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, just one out of every four car accidents is weather related. In "Fatal Car Crashes: Deadliest Driving Behaviors," Business Insider points out that most driving fatalities are caused by distracted behaviors and conditions far beyond those that can be simply chalked up to the weather.

What to watch out for

Failing to stay in one's lane and failing to yield the right-of-way cause the largest number of fatalities in at least seven states across the U.S. Weather related accidents involving rain-slicked roads tend to be more lethal than snow-related incidents in the majority of states-but in the Midwest, snow is far more deadly.

Many winter-weather related fatalities can be avoided if reasonable safety precautions are in place. To stay in control of your vehicle and reduce your liability risk, keep these driving tips in mind during the winter months:

  • When approaching an intersection or speeding up from a stop, accelerate and decelerate slowly to maintain control and to avoid sliding into another vehicle. If you have a manual transmission, utilize your lower gears when appropriate to decrease engine power-especially when driving on slick roads or approaching potential black ice.
  • Get familiar with your car's braking style, and know what type of braking system your car is equipped with before you set out on potentially icy roads. If you have anti-lock brakes, you'll want to avoid sudden, inconsistent braking pressure: easy, steady pressure is safest and most effective. If your car is not equipped with anti-lock brakes, pump the brakes slowly to avoid losing traction.
  • Know whether your vehicle is equipped with automatic running lights. If not, manually turn on your headlights (not your high-beams) for any conditions that result in impaired visibility. Headlights should be turned on during fog, rain, snow, and any other inclement weather. Headlights also improve safety and visibility during a dark cloudy day, when the sun is setting, and during an early morning commute.
  • During the winter months, snow and ice removal is a difficult but necessary chore. Scrape the snow and ice from your entire vehicle, not just the driver's side. Accumulated snow and ice can dislodge from your vehicle at high speeds, and create a hazard for those vehicles traveling behind you-not to mention the potential liability for you if someone is injured in the process.

Being on the road during the winter months doesn't have to be more dangerous than driving in mild road conditions. If you prepare your vehicle to handle potential severe weather effectively, you can reduce your driving stress and help prevent serious injuries-no matter what the season.

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