Do Your Part to Keep Our Roads Safe This Winter
Drivers in Rhode Island are no strangers to serious inclement weather, but experience handling icy roads isn't protection in itself. In fact, overconfidence is a common cause of accidents when the roads get dangerous.
If you haven't had a refresher lately on how to avoid accidents when the snow and ice hit, take a few minutes to read our blog. For those who know they're winter ready, don't miss our tips on what to do if you're in an accident, included at the end.
Preparing for Winter Driving
Wind and precipitation are 2 factors that can affect roadway conditions and increase the risk of accidents. Make sure you're prepared by checking the weather before you leave the house every day. Look both at what's happening now and what's projected for the next few hours so you can do your best to avoid the worst of the conditions.
Make sure your car is in tip-top shape for any inclement weather conditions by:
- Purchasing and installing snow tires
- Carrying chains, a shovel, and sand/gravel in your trunk
- Keeping your tires properly inflated
- Maintaining gas levels at one-half a tank or more
- Taking your car to a mechanic for a general check-up
Especially in the winter cold, preparedness is an essential part of safety. Taking the time to think ahead can keep you out of trouble or prevent a bad situation from becoming worse.
Safe Driving Practices for Snowy and Icy Roads
The number one way to avoid a crash caused by winter weather is to avoid driving on dangerous roads. However, sometimes that's not possible—which means you should be ready to do everything you can to keep yourself safe.
When roads are icy, your top speed should be 45 mph, even on highways; often, even traveling that fast isn't safe. If you can feel your car sliding or fishtailing, you are going too fast.
Having traction isn't just about avoiding skids. When your wheels can't grip the road as well, the time (and therefore distance) you'll need to maneuver increases. Stopping can take up to ten times as far on icy pavement as it would on the same stretch of dry road. You may also need more space to complete turns so you can take them more gradually. Slowing down gives you more time to take action if situations get hairy. This is often the difference between a close call and a crash.
Avoid Sudden Maneuvers
When traction is low, any sudden movements can cause your tires to lose their hold on the road. This is true for accelerating, braking, and turning. We know it's instinctive to want to act quickly when you sense a potential danger, but trying to make hasty changes can increase your chances of ending up in an accident.
Drive (More) Defensively
Especially in subpar driving conditions, you should assume at least one person sharing the road with you will make a serious mistake that could lead to an accident. Give yourself a better chance of avoiding a crash by:
- Increasing your following distance to 5 or 6 seconds
- Not passing other cars, no matter how tempting
- If someone starts to pass you, move your car to the right to give them more room if it is safe to do so
As always, you should keep your eyes moving and look far ahead so you can be prepared for whatever you're driving into.
What Every Driver Should Know About Skids
Feeling your car lose traction is one of the scariest sensations as a driver. It tends to trigger a panic reaction, which can lead a driver to do the exact wrong thing. The best way to avoid this response is by knowing skid safety inside and out.
The first rule of a skid is to not use the brakes. They won't help you stop when your wheels are sliding rather than rolling. The same goes for the steering wheel; you can't-course correct when you are in a skid.
What To Do When You Skid
When your front wheels are skidding—making your turn wider than you expected—slowly take your foot off the accelerator until your tires get ahold of the road again. Once you can feel them gripping, you can adjust your steering (gradually, to avoid another skid) to get yourself back on track
When you find yourself in a back wheel skid, meaning your car is fishtailing or spinning out, you should once again gradually let off the accelerator. Then, turn the wheel in the direction the rear of your car is sliding. Car and Driver suggests looking in the direction you want to go rather than the direction a skid has taken your car. As with a front wheel skid, you can steer yourself back to your path once you have traction again.
If you know what to look for, you may be able to sense when your car is losing traction and prevent a full-fledged skid. Some cars come with stability-control systems that will flash an alert—it's an amber icon of a car with wavy lines behind it—when your tires are starting to lose their grip on the road. Gradually ease off your accelerator if you see this alert.
If you are a safe distance away from other vehicles, you can also test your car's traction by gently braking for a second or two while driving forward in a straight line. If your car has an anti-lock brake system (ABS), your brake pedal will begin to shudder and you may see an ABS dashboard alert. For cars without either system, you may start to feel like your car is floating if it does not have adequate traction.
If you experience any indicators your wheels are not gripping the surface of the road, slow down (without jamming on the brakes) until you have traction again. Then, keep steady at that speed.
One final tip for avoiding skids: Never use cruise control on a snowy or icy road. A car in cruise may direct wheels to spin at different speeds (weird but true!), which can cause you to lose control.
What to Do When Winter Weather Causes an Accident
As with any collision, you should drive your car to the side of the road after you're hit if at all possible. If you cannot do this and there is traffic approaching, stay in your car—you are safer there than you would be if you were hit as a pedestrian. If the road is free of traffic and you are able to leave the road, do so. The shoulder may not be far enough, because cars often slide out of their lanes in snow- or ice-caused accidents. Try to put a guardrail or some serious distance between yourself and the road.
Then, take the steps you always would after a car accident: call 911, get the other driver's information, seek medical care, and then call an attorney.
Winter Crash Caused by Someone Else? We Can Help.
Especially when the weather is bad, all of us must do our part to drive safely. When someone doesn't take proper precautions and ends up causing an accident, anyone they injure can file for damages.
It doesn't matter if the at-fault driver was going the speed limit, or if they didn't realize there was ice there—losing control of a vehicle makes a driver responsible for an accident. Our attorneys can help those injured by unsafe drivers pursue justice and compensation. Especially if you or a loved one was severely injured, recovering a fair settlement can help you pay for medical treatment, lost wages, and other challenges.
Our ideal world would be one where no one is injured in a car accident, but unfortunately, dangerous drivers hurt others every day. Stay safe out there—but know you have somewhere to turn if you end up in a crash even while you were doing everything right.
Call us at (888) 281-3100 to schedule a free consultation with our Rhode Island car accident attorneys.
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