Driver Duties in Winter Weather
Weather conditions can severely impact travel and road safety by impairing a driver’s capabilities, vehicle performance, or infrastructure stability.1 For instance, precipitation such as rain, sleet, or snow can result in decreased visibility distance, pavement friction problems, lane obstructions, delayed travel time, inadequate speed limits, or inappropriate traffic signal timing.2 As a result of traveling in inclement weather, each year there is approximately 1.5 million weather-related accidents, an additional 57 percent of unreported accidents, about 673,000 injuries, and nearly 7,400 fatalities.3 To reduce the risk of weather-related accidents, it is important to limit non-essential travel during dangerous weather, but since not all travel can be avoided, knowing the duties a driver has during winter weather is very important.
Driving During Dangerous Weather
Winter weather conditions include low temperatures, high winds, and accumulation of snow or ice which can create negative impacts on the roadway and operator, but these risks can be counteracted by engaging in safe driving procedures and practices. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration operated under the Unites States Department of Labor, the key to safe wintertime driving is preparing for trips, protecting yourself while driving, and preventing crashes on the road.4
In order to prepare for a trip, a driver should begin by maintaining a properly working vehicle by checking the battery, tire tread, windshield wipers, clearing windows of any snow or ice accumulation, check antifreeze level, and use no-freeze fluids.5 Preparing for winter weather travel also includes equipping your vehicle with gear such as a flashlight, jumper cable, abrasive material such as sand, shovel, snow brush, ice scraper, warning devices like flares, and personal care items like a first aid kit, food, water, and a blanket.6 The final step for preparing for winter driving is to practice cold weather driving in more ideal circumstances such as during daylight hours in an empty lot and plan out routes with alternative roadways before getting behind the wheel.
Even with the best-laid plans and preparation, accidents can still occur which is why drivers should take steps to protect against the repercussions of an accident by using child safety seats for minor passengers and wearing safety restraints.7 Other ways to prevent a collision includes avoiding alcohol or drug impaired driving, increasing distances between cars, reducing speed according to conditions, and avoiding distracted or fatigued driving.8
The general principal in winter weather is to drive in a reasonable manner according to the circumstances and conditions. In other words, the driver’s duties are not static, but evolve as the weather changes. This means that a driver may need to reduce speed contrary to the legally posted speed limits as well as avoid red light rights, use headlights during the day, turn on windshield wipers, or avoid passing vehicles in low visibility situations in order to not breach the duty owed to other drivers.
Contact an Experienced St. Louis Personal Injury Attorney for a Free Consultation
If you have suffered a loss or harm due to an accident caused by a driver’s failure to meet the proper duty of care as required in winter weather conditions, it is important to discuss the circumstances of your injury with an experienced personal injury attorney who can help to protect your legal rights and interests. To contact a personal injury attorney for a free consultation please feel free to call The Bruning Law Firm at 314-735-8100.