Winter can make the roads in Chicago dangerous and can be a factor in thousands of car accidents every year. Whether there is a fresh dusting of snow, a thick coating of ice, or even just the slushy snow remains from the last storm, the winter weather conditions can have a significant effect on the roads and on every driver’s ability to travel.
When inclement weather strikes, the best advice is always to stay off the roads whenever possible. If you are at home and do not need to leave, consider staying where you are until conditions improve. But in some cases, it may not be possible to avoid the weather entirely and you may need to travel. If you find yourself in that position, consider the following safety tips before you leave:
Safety Tips Before You Leave Home
- Make sure your vehicle is in proper working order – Before bad weather begins, consider having a mechanic or other professional review your vehicle to make sure it is fully functioning. An expert in the field can verify that simple parts like the car’s heater, defogger, windshield wipers and washer lines, headlights, and tail lights are all working properly.
- Remove any snow and/or ice from your vehicle – If you park your car outdoors or if your car sits outside while you are running errands, snow or ice are bound to deposit on your vehicle as time passes. Failing to remove the snow or ice from your car before driving may limit your ability to see as well as pose a danger to others. If snow is piled on your car and you start driving down an expressway or street, the snow will blow off your car and potentially into the path of another driver, decreasing that driver’s ability to see. Snow and ice should also be removed from the headlights, tail lights, and brake lights of your car so that other drivers can see you from a distance.
- Drive with your headlights on – Winter weather often leads to a decrease in visibility while on the road. One of the best things any driver can do to ensure their car is visible is to drive with the headlights on, even during daylight hours. Clouds and snow can block out much of the sunlight during the winter meaning that artificial light may make a significant difference during daytime driving.
Safety Tips While Driving in Winter Weather
- Slow down – Speeding only makes snow and ice worse when it comes to driving. The faster a car travels, the greater the chances are that the tires will slip or skid on the road’s surface, potentially leading a driver to lose control of a vehicle. Eliminate the attractiveness of speeding by leaving a few minutes early, thus allowing yourself extra time to reach your destination and removing any benefit you may otherwise obtain from speeding.
- Increase stopping distance – As a general rule, it takes about three times the distance to bring a car to a complete stop in winter weather as it does during optimal conditions. This means that you should increase the distance between your car and the vehicle in front of you to guarantee that you have plenty of time to stop if necessary. Additionally, as you approach an intersection, keep in mind that it will take you longer to slow or stop, so begin to decelerate your vehicle sooner than normal in preparation for a stop sign or a red light.
- Avoid skids – A car can enter a skid if a driver attempts to turn too sharply or stop too suddenly, especially in winter. Ice often is a contributing factor to a skid, which is where a vehicle slides, often sideways, as the tires lose their grip on the road. To prevent a skid, brake slowly and gently. If you do not have anti-lock brakes on your vehicle, pump the brakes when encountering snow and ice.
- Be aware of changing conditions – Often, the roads may seem clear of snow and ice but an overpass or bridge may be covered in both. This is because the air flow around bridges and overpasses allow the surfaces of both to cool faster, enabling ice to form there before it can form on other portions of the roads. Just because one section of an expressway or street is free from ice does not guarantee that all areas will be the same.
- Let road crews go first – Plow trucks, front end loaders, and salt trucks are heavy vehicles designed to handle well in the snow. They are driven by trained professionals who are working hard to get the roads as clear and safe as possible for the benefit of all drivers. If you are near or behind a plow truck, do not pass it. Let the plow do its job and take comfort knowing that the road behind the plow truck likely is much safer than the portion in front of the truck that has yet to be plowed.
- Stay home if possible – Some winter weather is too severe to make driving safe. If you are facing an extreme storm or if one is forecast, consider waiting at home or somewhere safe until the worst part of the weather passes. Your safety will increase and the time it takes you to drive likely will decrease if you travel in more desirable conditions.
Relief After a Chicago-Area Winter Car Crash
Even taking every safety precaution, it is still possible to be involved in a winter-related car crash while driving in Chicago. If it happens to you and you are injured as a result, know that you may be entitled to seek relief for your injuries against any negligent party that caused you harm.
In many cases, these claims can be brought against an at-fault driver who was not putting safety first but rather was acting in a reckless or negligent manner. If a driver is traveling too fast for conditions, following too closely, or otherwise ignoring traffic conditions, you may be able to seek relief against that driver or that driver’s automobile insurance. In the event you are injured while riding in the same car as the negligent driver, you may still have a claim. Speaking with an injury lawyer after your crash may help you understand what legal options are available to you.
At Abels & Annes, P.C., we believe in fighting for the rights of those hurt by the negligence of others. Over the years, we have helped many clients who were injured in car accidents and we have helped them obtain the relief they deserved. If you have been injured in an accident that was caused in part by winter weather, call us today at (855) LAW-CHICAGO or locally at (312) 924-7575 and let us provide you with a free case consultation. There is no obligation on your part for taking advantage of the consultation and if we represent you, we will never charge you a fee unless we make a recovery on your behalf.
If you have been hurt in a winter weather car crash, call us today at (855) LAW-CHICAGO or Contact Us online for a free consultation.