Winter Weather Car Accidents
With the winter season upon us, be prepared for the challenges of driving in winter weather. Even in North Carolina, you should be aware of and prepared for the risks that winter weather poses to motorists. If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident involving winter weather, you may have questions about how the weather conditions impact your potential personal injury claim. For safety tips and general information about winter weather and personal injury claims, read on!
Who is liable for a winter weather car accident?
The involvement of a winter weather hazard like snow or ice in a motor vehicle accident does not alone relieve a driver of liability. In other words, winter weather conditions are just one factor that will be considered when determining liability for an accident. Regardless of the road conditions, all drivers have a responsibility to use due care, meaning the care which a reasonable and prudent driver would have exercised under the circumstances.1 Drivers should consider the existing winter weather conditions when making decisions while driving and adjust accordingly. Determining liability can be complicated, so you should contact a personal injury attorney if you have questions about a specific motor vehicle accident.
Tips for Safe Driving in Winter Weather
During the winter months, it is important to stay tuned to changing weather conditions. Set alerts or check before heading out for winter weather advisories, winter storm watches, and winter storm warnings. In case of dangerous weather, the only way to be certain of avoiding an accident is to refrain from driving. Make sure your vehicle is ready for winter weather by checking that your tires are properly inflated and have plenty of treads. Carry a cell phone if possible and make sure it’s charged. The N.C. Department of Transportation advises that you prepare for a winter weather emergency by:
- Keeping a supply kit in your vehicle including an ice scraper, snow brush, extra windshield wiper fluid, anti-freeze, and a basic automotive tool kit that includes jumper cables and flares;
- Keeping an emergency kit in your trunk including a flashlight, first-aid kit, blanket, shovel, sand, non-perishable snacks, drinking water, and safety flares, as well as any other items you might personally need in an emergency; and
- Maintaining at least a half-tank of gas in your vehicle and a full reservoir of windshield washer fluid.
For information from NCDOT, check out their page on driving in winter weather.
If you decide to drive in winter weather conditions, slow down! You should adjust your speed down to take into account reduced traction due to snow or ice. Along the same lines, you should accelerate and decelerate slowly to avoid skidding. Remember that your braking distance will be longer on icy roads, so you should also increase your following distance, so you have plenty of time to stop. The North Carolina Department of Public Safety also recommends following these safety tips for driving in winter weather:
- Use windshield wipers and turn on the low beam headlights.
- Defrost windows.
- If you start to slide, take your foot off the gas and do not slam on the brakes. Steer in the direction of the skid.
- Watch for shady spots, bridges, and overpasses because they will be the first to freeze as the temperatures drop.
- Do not use cruise control.
For more tips on safe winter driving, check out the NCDPS safety tips.
What To Do After A Winter Weather Accident
If you are in a winter weather accident, call the police or State Highway Patrol. It may not be safe to leave your vehicle. You may become disoriented and lost in blowing and drifting snow. If you are able to safely leave your vehicle and your vehicle is running, scrape away any snow or debris from the exhaust pipe to prevent carbon monoxide build up inside the car. Use a brightly colored cloth or flares if they can be placed safely to attract the attention of passing motorists and law enforcement.
If and when it is safe to do so, take photos and video of the accident scene, including damage to the vehicles involved. Take down the information of the other driver, any witnesses, and towing company. Be sure to contact your insurance company to notify them of the accident.
If you were in a winter weather motor vehicle accident in North Carolina and need advice specific to your situation, give the experienced personal injury attorneys at Grimes Yeoman a call at (704) 321-4878 or contact us through our website.
- Campbell v. Ingram, 180 N.C. App. 239, 244, 636 S.E.2d 847, 850 (2006).