Winter lovers are eagerly awaiting that first snowfall of the season. Some people may enjoy the snow for various reasons. Children may love the snow for the snow fights; adults may enjoy the snow for the chance to bundle up while the weather begins to chill outside.
For drivers, snow may bring an additional worry in regards to travel. Every driver is aware that when the snow sticks to the roads, it can make driving very dangerous. The risk of the snow melting and then turning into ice later presents an additional risk for drivers. Some states have already started to experience a few inches of snow, and Missouri and Illinois may be next.
How do snow and ice accidents happen?
It is no secret that snow and ice create dangerous driving conditions for all motorists. One of the reasons why snow and ice are so dangerous for drivers to travel through is that the conditions make it difficult to operate vehicles safely. When snow and ice cover the roads, a car’s tires lose traction, making it difficult for drivers to remain in control of their vehicles. They can slide out and hit other vehicles or stationary objects, like a median or a tree.
A car can also get stuck in snow that’s too heavy, making it impossible to move. When that happens in the middle of a roadway, there is an increased risk of the stuck car becoming a “struck” car, if other drivers cannot stop in time.
What makes wintry roads so dangerous?
After the snow falls, it has the potential of melting and becoming ice. Once the ice freezes on the streets, it may be virtually invisible to everyone, leaving drivers unaware of how bad the streets genuinely are. These are the types of conditions that can cause a car to skid uncontrollably on the road. A driver could be traveling at a regular speed and lose traction of their vehicle due to the amount of ice on the road at any moment.
Note, too, that bridges and overpasses are more likely to freeze before a road is – and these structures are among the worst places for a crash.
Dangerous everyday driving habits are much worse on snow and ice
Some of the common driving maneuvers that can lead to a severe accident on snowy and icy roads are driving too fast, tailgating, and suddenly slamming on the brakes. All drivers are advised to reduce their speed when traveling on snowy or icy roads. To continue to drive at a regular speed or speed up on an icy or snowy road puts the driver at a greater risk of losing control of their vehicle. Drivers who are driving at a faster rate have a smaller amount of time to react to any changes in the road.
Another driving maneuver that drivers want to avoid while traveling on icy or snowy roads is tailgating. It’s incredibly dangerous when the roads are clear; when the road conditions being unknown, the last thing a driver wants to do is follow too closely behind another vehicle. The driver following behind a car severely reduces the time they have to react to the driver’s actions before them.
When a driver begins to feel that the car is skidding, it is natural to want to slam on the brakes in an attempt to regain control of the vehicle. However, that action only makes the situation worse. The faster a tire moves, the more likely it is to lose traction, leading to skidding. The Missouri Department of Transportation says to do the following in the event you start to skid:
If your rear wheels skid…
- Take your foot off of the accelerator.
- Steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. For example, if your rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. If they’re sliding right, steer right.
- If your rear wheels start sliding the other way as you recover, ease the steering wheel toward that side. You might have to steer left and right a few times to get your vehicle completely under control.
- If you have standard brakes, pump them gently.
- If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), do not pump the brakes. Apply steady pressure to the brakes. You will feel the brakes pulse — this is normal.
If your front wheels skid…
- Take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral, but don’t try to steer immediately.
- As the wheels skid sideways, they will slow the vehicle and traction will return. As it does, steer in the direction you want to go. Then put the transmission in “drive” or release the clutch, and accelerate gently.
How can drivers stay safe while traveling through the snow and ice?
One of the actions drivers can take while traveling on icy or snowy roads is to reduce their speed. Even if the vehicle’s tires do lose traction, drivers traveling at a slower rate have a better chance of reacting more safely than speeding drivers. Put your phones down, keep your eyes on the road, and pull over someplace safe if you feel unsafe: distraction can cause accidents, and anxiety can lead to distraction.
Just like with all weather conditions, preparation is critical. Drivers can take additional actions that can prepare them for traveling on icy or snowy roads in the future. A driver can change their current tires to snow tires, make sure that all vehicle fluids are at their proper levels, and prepare an emergency kit in case you find yourself stranded. That kit should contain a blanket, some water, a flashlight, and some emergency road flares. If your car is buried in a snowbank, make sure the exhaust pipe is clear; otherwise, you could accidentally poison yourself if you keep the car running with the windows rolled up.
At The Hayden Law Firm, we pair big-firm expertise with small-firm personalized attention to meet your needs and concerns. We take on the insurance companies so you don’t have to, working to secure fair and just compensation for your injuries. Please call us in St. Louis at 314-480-3100 or submit your questions through our contact form for a free, no-risk consultation. We proudly serve clients throughout Missouri and Illinois.
Attorney Amanda L. Hayden has dedicated her legal career to fearlessly advocating for clients and their families after their lives have been devastated by the careless and/or reckless conduct of others.
Read more about Amanda L. Hayden