Key Points of This Article:
- NHTSA data is reporting that Michigan is the most dangerous state for winter driving, with nearly 50 road deaths every year.
- About 65% of the winter car accidents in Michigan have been linked to drivers driving “too fast for conditions,” according to a Michigan State Police analysis.
- Despite the many winter weather factors that are indeed out of our control, all drivers can make decisions that could safely impact their daily commute including preparing vehicles and knowing how to share the road with big trucks.
- From knowing how to operate your car during a winter whiteout to recognizing the importance of staying off your phone, the team at Lee Steinberg Law Firm is providing these winter driving warnings in hopes to lessen your accident risk.
Michigan drivers may believe they are better than most at driving in heavy snow, ice, and slush but data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from 2015 to 2017 says Michigan is the most dangerous state for winter driving, with nearly 50 road deaths reported every year. That is almost double than Pennsylvania, the second deadliest state ranked with 30 related deaths each year. So, if you are starting to notice the cold weather, it’s time to review and share Lee Steinberg Law Firm’s five warnings for minimizing your winter car accident risk before the next blast of cold air arrives.
#1 Vehicles Aren’t Ready
It’s never a good idea to be driving your vehicle around in a Midwest winter if you haven’t had the preventative maintenance or car care checks recommended by professionals in the automotive service industry. Having routine cold-weather maintenance done before the single-digit temperatures trend can not only help improve minor car issues but also prevent you from being involved in a serious or fatal car wreck. This includes replacing wiper blades and lights, filling up on antifreeze and window-washer fluid, checking for proper tire inflation, ensuring your battery has sufficient charge and packing a safety kit prepped for winter travel in your vehicle.
#2 Ice and Slush Make for a Slick Ride
Pay special attention to that dirty, tricky slush that seems to get thrown by passing vehicles and built up in unexpected road areas. Over time, that slush will stiffen, and icy conditions quickly develop. Be extra cautious on bridges because they can become an easy home to black ice patches during those early morning commuting hours when temperatures are low.
When you a slippery spot, accelerate and brake slowly and avoid abrupt steering maneuvers or using cruise control. Once the digits reach the teens, most salt mixes become ineffective, so if you start to slide, follow your instincts to slow down and keep your hands on the wheel, turning into the opposite direction of your skid.
#3 Snowplow and Semi-Truck Drivers Create Extra Road Hazards
Remember that snowplow trucks typically weigh 12-25 times more than the average car or truck, and large semi-trucks often weigh 20-30 times as much, so it makes sense that most deaths and catastrophic road injuries will involve passenger vehicle occupants rather than truck drivers. The sheer size of these vehicles, extra equipment hazards and loads, as well as the force of the collision all contribute to winter’s hike in fatal crashes. Other crash factors that contribute to winter truck accidents include improper operator training, poorly maintained brake systems, misinformed load weights, bottleneck traffic and truck drivers who make the poor and deadly decision to operate under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
And remember, if you can’t see the driver in the truck’s side mirror, assume that they also can’t see you. It’s better to give snowplow drivers, buses, and big trucks the extra room they need.
#4 Weather Advisories Can Awake Distracting Behaviors
Although we agree it is important to stay up-to-date on traffic concerns and winter weather advisories, it doesn’t mean checking your favorite weatherman’s Facebook or Twitter account while driving is warranted. Motor vehicle operators who take their eyes off the road for more than two seconds automatically double their risk of a crash and killing themselves or others, and texting while driving is the most dangerous as it requires all three forms of distraction. Instead, be prepared for any weather events before you leave for your destination.
If you must drive, enable your safe driving features that are mostly standard on today’s phones. You may have to activate them in general settings first though for them to work. If your phone model doesn’t offer this option, try some downloadable apps that will directly block you from using your phone and will respond to messages or calls with “I can’t talk, I am driving.” And if all of those attempts fail, just always keep your attention where it belongs by committing to never look at your phone’s screen while driving.
#5 Blowing Snow and Whiteout Conditions
Winter driving accidents often occur because drivers are traveling too fast for conditions, and they don’t see the vehicle in front of them until it is too late. And it is likely that if you fail to stop in time, your vehicle will hit another, especially if the roadway is icy. Reasonable following distance for dry pavement conditions (3-4 seconds) should be tripled during winter weather conditions.
When driving in blowing snow or winter fog, use your low-beam headlights since high beams tend to reflect off the ice particles in the snow. If you have fog lights on your vehicle, use them, in addition to your low beams. While being able to see what is ahead is essential, also is staying alert and knowing when it is time to delay your commute until whiteout conditions improve.
Winter Auto Accidents Can Cause Life-Long Injuries
If you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident this winter and sustained an injury of any kind, we want to hear about it and help you. Please call Lee Free and speak to our auto accident attorneys at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733). And remember, you pay nothing until we settle your case.
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