Driving on Michigan roadways in winter is not easy. Besides the usual traffic congestion, drivers throughout the state have other factors to contend with. This includes an increase in nighttime driving – and with that less visibility – as the days shorten. But most importantly, snow and ice on the roadways, in particular black ice, can create very dangerous conditions that lead to horrible crashes and injuries.
The law in Michigan for driving in winter is not much different than it is for other seasons. Drivers must take the conditions of the road and visibility into consideration when operating their vehicles. This can require drivers to alter and slow down the speed of their vehicles if the road or highway they are on is dangerous or visibility is limited.
The following is a list of basic rules Michigan drivers must abide by when driving during the winter time. These rules are enforced by law enforcement and can result in civil penalties and fines if they are ignored. In addition, a person can be found to be negligent in a civil proceeding for failing to obey these laws, thus exposing them to civil liability if their negligence results in injuries to another motorist or pedestrian.
Driving at a Proper and Safe Speed:
Drivers in Michigan cannot exceed the speed limit. But what most people don’t realize is that drivers must slow down and drive below the speed limit if the weather condition dictate this is necessary to ensure safe driving. MCL 257.627(1) addresses vehicle speed and mandates drivers must:
operate that vehicle at a careful and prudent speed not greater than nor less than is reasonable and proper, having due regard to the traffic, surface, and width of the highway and of any other condition existing at the time. A person shall not operate a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than that which will permit a stop within the assured, clear distance ahead.
So just because the speed limit is 55 mph on a freeway doesn’t mean you can drive that fast if the road conditions are poor due to a snow storm or black ice. Instead, the law requires you to drive slower and to utilize due care and caution for the conditions encountered.
Maintaining Windshield Wipers in Good Working Condition:
Not only must drivers operate the speed of their vehicle in a safe manner, drivers must also ensure their vehicles can properly remove snow, sleet and other precipitation as it falls while driving. This includes makes sure the car has working wiper blades.
Under MCL 257.709(4), the windshield on each motor vehicle shall be equipped with a device for cleaning rain, snow, or other moisture from the windshield, which device shall be so constructed as to be controlled or operated by the driver of the vehicle.
Exterior Lighting Cannot be Covered by Snow or Ice:
As cars sit during a snow storm, they inevitable collect snow and ice. This snow can cover every part of the vehicle, including the exterior lights at the front and the rear of the vehicle. Before operating a car on the road, the driver must clear the snow and ice off the exterior lighting areas of the car.
In fact, under MCL 257.699, a vehicle’s exterior lights should be cleaned off so the light, or composite beam can “reveal persons and vehicles at a distance of at least 350 feet ahead for all conditions of loading.”
Not having adequate lighting can lead to a ticket. They also play a role in liability claims when someone causes a car accident on a Michigan highway.
Other Legal Requirements in Michigan:
Besides the above rules, driving safe requires drivers to follow the regular rules during the winter time:
- Check tires to ensure they are properly inflated and the tire air pressure is adequate.
- Full up on antifreeze and window-washer fluid
- Make sure the brakes are good wording condition and not “loose”
- Don’t drive and drive
- Don’t text and drive
- Stay focused on the roadway and don’t drive distracted.
Last, the following are some winter tips for driving during the winter time:
- Beware of black ice, especially on bridges, underpasses and at intersections. What can look like a puddle or wet area may in fact be a sheet of ice. These conditions can cause a car to spin out.
- Increase the distance between you and the car in front of you. This will give you more time to brake or get out of the way if another vehicle loses control.
- Although most vehicles now have anti-block brakes (ABS), don’t slam on the brakes if you lose control of the vehicle. Instead, gently apply the brake pressure and feel the brake system activate. Slamming on the brakes can cause you to lose even more control.
- If you begin to skid, always turn your vehicle into the skid marks. For example, if you are turning to the left, turn your vehicle to the left and turn into the skid marks.
If you or someone you know has been injured in a Michigan car accident due to black ice or bad winter weather, call the Michigan snow accident lawyers at the Lee Steinberg Law Firm, P.C. We never charge a penny until we win and we have helped thousands of clients obtain compensation and the justice they deserve.
Call us at 1-800-LEE-FREe (1-800-533-3733) for your free legal consultation. Our Michigan winter time accident attorneys are standing by, ready to assist and answer your questions.