Winter weather car accidents in Hazleton and throughout Pennsylvania will be a common threat for the next few months.
As Lancaster Online reported, the year began with school and office closings across the region as drivers throughout the greater Philadelphia area dealt with icy roads and bone-chilling temperatures.
Experienced injury attorneys understand that winter weather has a significant impact on the number of serious and fatal traffic collisions each year. However, what some drivers might not understand is that it's not just the weather; it's the endless series of poor driving habits that motorists exhibit year round that result in deadly consequences.
Pennsylvania law prohibits texting while driving. But when it comes to traveling safely in winter weather, drivers throughout the state need to exhibit extra caution. That means putting the phone away entirely, allowing yourself extra time to reach your destination safely, having your vehicle properly serviced and prepared for travel and using all of the other common-sense solutions that become especially critical when driving in inclement weather.
Winter weather collision risks
More than 1 million weather-related traffic collisions occur each year, according to the Times Telegram. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports winter weather accidents are caused by ice, snow, sleet or slush in about 15 percent of those cases.
The vast majority of collisions still occur because an at-fault party failed to use reasonable care. Speeding, distraction, following too closely and failure to look out for bicyclists and pedestrians are all common causes. A disproportionate number of injury accidents also occur in parking lots.
Roles of safety and liability in winter accidents
Taking care to drive safely can not only reduce your chance of being involved in a weather related collision this winter, but also reduce your chance of being found at fault. Using reasonable care is a duty all drivers owe other motorists on the road. What might be deemed reasonable for summer travel may not be deemed so when the plows are out and icy or snowy conditions require drivers to be extra diligent.
In addition to avoiding the common bad habits that increase your risk of an accident throughout the year, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation offers additional safe driving tips for motorists this winter:
- Keep your gas tank at least half full and carry a charged cell phone. Consider packing an emergency kit in the trunk.
- Beware of black ice. Roads and bridges that just look wet may actually be frozen with clear ice. Bridges and overpasses will freeze first. Motorists should use extra caution on highway bridges and ramps for the same reason.
- Slow down and increase your following distance.
- State law requires use of headlights and wipers in inclement weather. Using low-beam lights is best for seeing in snowy weather.
- Properly remove ice and snow from your vehicle before traveling. It is required by state law and a driver can be stopped and ticketed. Driving with ice and snow accumulation on your vehicle not only makes it more difficult for the driver to see but also creates a hazard for other motorists.
- Do not pass plows or get between plows in a plow line.
- If you become stranded, stay put and wait for help to arrive. Make sure to keep your tailpipe clear for proper exhaust.
Carefully documenting the scene and getting the names and contact information of witnesses can be critical in the event of an accident due to bad weather. Consulting an experienced auto accident attorney is equally critical to documenting the impact of weather in the wake of a serious collision.