Each year, 6,500 car crashes are caused by snow and ice each year. Because adverse weather has returned to Colorado, so too has the increased risk of winter car crashes. Our Denver personal injury lawyers remind drivers that winter driving is very different from driving any other time of year. Here are some simple driving tips to avoid winter car crashes in Colorado.
Whether getting ready for work in the morning or planning a trip to the mountains to ski, drivers should know what the weather conditions are going to be like while on the road. Drivers should turn to local news or weather stations and take note of the weather to their destination and on the way home. This will help prepare drivers for the commute as well as alert them to any issues that may prevent travel altogether.
Severe weather can be both frightening and dangerous for travelers. In fact, winter storms and haphazard road conditions contribute to nearly half a million collisions and more than 2,000 deaths every winter, according to research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The personal injury attorneys at Bowman Law urges drivers to be cautious while driving in adverse weather and adequately prepare for winter road emergencies. The Colorado Department of Transportation recommends drivers ensure the following are in safe operating condition:
- Windshield Wiper Fluid: In cold climates, winter often brings heavy precipitation. Whether it is snow, sleet, or rain, a vehicle’s wipers have their work cut out for them trying to keep the windshield clear. Wiper fluid will help ensure drivers can see their surroundings.
- Winter Wiper Blades: Unlike normal summer blades, winter wipers have a protective layer made out of rubber that allows them to keep working, even if it is icy or snowy outside.
- Radiator/ Anti-Freeze: If water freezes, it cannot flow properly to cool the engine, leading to an engine overheating.
- Tire Tread: In winter weather, all-season tires begin losing traction long before they appear worn-out. Tread depth is essential to disperse rainwater, slush, and snow. As tires wear, the ability to hold the road confidently fades.
- Tire Pressure: Drivers should consult their owner’s manual to determine the proper inflation for tires, which is higher in winter.
- Working Headlights: With proper lighting, drivers can better see the road ahead as well as other vehicles nearby. Headlights are important for illuminating reflective road signs and seeing pedestrians who are crossing the road. They also help notify other motorists and pedestrians of a driver’s presence.
- Car Battery: As the temperature continues to fall during the winter months, the capacity of the vehicle’s batter also falls. It is important to check a vehicle’s car batteries because, as the temperature drops, engine oil thickens, causing the starter to work harder to start the engine.
In addition to making sure a vehicle has the aforementioned parts in properly working order, drivers should consider keeping various items in the vehicle in case of emergency. Drivers should be prepared by creating a car survival kit for winter emergencies, including the following items:
- Scraper / Brush / Shovel: It is helpful to have a scraper, brush, or shovel to clear snow off a vehicle.
- Flashlight with Extra Batteries: A flashlight is a great tool to keep any time of year, however, it can be incredibly helpful in times of emergency, particularly during wintertime, blizzard, or snowy conditions that reduce a driver’s visibility.
- Blanket / Sleeping Bag: Recently, drivers throughout the United States were stranded for upwards of 13 hours on various interstates struck with significant winter conditions. A blanket could help people stay warm during these types of situations.
- Gallon of Water: Similar to the blanket, drivers who are stranded must stay hydrated.
- First Aid Kit: These could be handy in emergency situations requiring medical care.
- Tire Chains / Tow Strap: Snow chains help boost a vehicle’s traction in cold weather and tow straps might just save a driver if their vehicle gets stuck in a ditch.
- Jumper Cables: Jumper cables may save a driver time and stress in an emergency.
- Flares / Reflectors: These provide excellent warning signals to other motorists.
Driving in Winter Conditions
Winter is notorious for wet, slushy, and slippery roads. While driving in these conditions can be inevitable, drivers should know how to drive in poor conditions to stay safe and avoid accidents.
- Employ Extra Caution: When driving on snow and ice, drivers should slow down and leave large following distance since low visibility can hide hazards.
- Take Curves at Slowed Speeds: Slick road conditions will increase stopping distance. Drivers should avoid situations that would force them to slide.
- Drive Sober: Drivers should always avoid driving while intoxicated, distracted, fatigued, or otherwise unfit to operate a motor vehicle.
- Avoid Black Ice: Black ice forms when melted snow freezes on roadways. Bridges are the most popular place for black ice to develop because they are surrounded by cold air on all sides. Underpasses are also common sites for black ice because the roadway receives little sunlight and collects runoff when snow melts. Drivers should be cognizant of these areas when driving.
- Be Careful Around Plows: Plows have very large blind spots and they may leave lanes to avoid a road hazard or as a result of impact with packed snow. Drivers should generally avoid passing snowplows unless there is adequate space and visibility.
- Be Prepared for the Unexpected: Drivers should be ready for vehicle trouble, accidents, or other unanticipated issues.
Hold Negligent Drivers Liable
Some drivers will continue driving without due regard to the safety of others. They will put lives at risk with negligent driving. While we offer the aforementioned tips to help drivers avoid accidents, the reality is that accidents are going to happen. If you or a loved one has been injured in a winter car crash caused by someone else who was driving irresponsibly, it is important to get legal help immediately. Although no amount of money can adequately compensate you for your injury or disruption to your life, the at-fault driver who caused the crash is responsible for your losses under Colorado law.
Owner and Managing Attorney
Jerry Bowman, J.D., M.A., Owner and managing attorney of Bowman Law LLC, takes his responsibility to the legal profession seriously and dedicates his time and effort to providing quality and competent legal representation to clients in Denver and throughout all of Colorado. He holds an MA in Political Science from Wayne State University and earned his law degree in two and a half years from Michigan State University College of Law.
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