According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation, severe weather traffic accidents cause a greater number of deaths in the United States than tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, and heat waves combined. Earlier this winter, an article from The Weather Channel related a few grim totals: “more than 5.8 million vehicle crashes occur each year based on statistics from 2007 to 2016. About 21 percent of those, or just over 1.2 million, involved hazardous weather.” Weather-related motor vehicle accidents “have killed an average of 5,376 people annually, accounting for about 16 percent of all vehicular deaths.” These crashes also injured “more than 418,000 others.” Those numbers dwarf the fatalities from flooding, lightning, tornadoes, hurricanes, and extreme heat, which average 379.
Here in New Jersey, winter provides our most severe weather and our most hazardous conditions for driving. Snow, sleet, fog, and barely visible sheets of ice make driving especially risky. But given the physical conditions drivers must deal with, what are the human factors that compound the danger for winter weather driving?
So that you can stay safer this winter, here are our top five ways drivers contribute to winter weather crashes:
- Driving too fast — You may not be technically speeding, but if you’re driving too fast for conditions, you’re breaking the law and you are courting disaster. Slowing down on a snowy street keeps you safe several ways. You don’t risk having to stop quickly, which can cause a skid or a spin out if you give yourself time to deal with poor visibility (see below), you are better able to maintain continuous momentum, and won’t get stuck as easily.
- Driving in low visibility — If you can’t see, you shouldn’t be driving. In white-out conditions, pull over to the side of the road and wait. If a foggy windshield is the problem, there are things you can do to alleviate it. Keep your heater on to warm your windshield and don’t recirculate air in the cabin. Open a window to vent the interior air. Finally, turning your air conditioner on will remove moisture from the interior.
- Following too closely — This is a leading cause of accidents even in good weather. It should go without saying that tailgating when you have poor traction due to snow and ice is not a smart idea.
- Stopping in traffic — If your car stops dead in traffic, you’re asking to be rear-ended. We realize most drivers don’t choose to randomly stop; they’ve either become stuck or the vehicles ahead of them have stopped. However, it pays to be mindful of the danger, so you can avoid stopping whenever possible.
- Overacceleration — If you’re trying to get your car moving across snow and ice, you could start spinning your wheels. This sometimes works to clear slush, so you can get some traction. But when the rubber does finally meet the road, you could lurch forward uncontrollably, risking a collision. Keep your acceleration moderate and under control, so you can ease your car forward.
After an unexpected and problematic fall snowstorm, we’ve had a moderate winter in the Garden State. We’ve been fortunate that on most days when we’ve gotten precipitation, the temperature has been above freezing. However, such a mild pattern is unlikely to hold. When we get our fair share of winter storms, all of us at Brach Eichler Injury Lawyers hope you are prepared and that you stay safe.
Brach Eichler Injury Lawyers represents clients injured in auto accidents throughout the Garden State. If you have questions about your rights in any such case, call us at 973-364-8300 or contact our office online.