As a Midwestern state, Ohio winters can be temperamental, to say the least. From rain and snow to dangerous ice, fog, and everything in between, conditions can make staying safe while driving a major undertaking. The best way to ensure that you stay safe while driving in bad weather conditions is to be armed with knowledge.
Below, you’ll learn about a variety of weather conditions and how to ensure that you and your vehicle remain unharmed.
While an emergency situation can happen at any time, dangerous winter conditions make serious and unexpected accidents far more likely. The best way to prevent an accident in poor conditions and protect yourself in case you find yourself in an emergency situation is to be as prepared as possible before getting behind the wheel.
Be Ready for Poor Conditions
Before you leave home, make it a point to check the weather so you know what to expect not only at the present moment but also at other times when you will be traveling. If the temperature is below 32 degrees, you can expect snow and possibly ice and should leave a few minutes early so you can take your time getting to where you need to go.
In especially bad conditions, taking the time to put on snow tires, chains, or studs before pulling out of your driveway is worth it. In addition, always make sure to clear your windshield and the rest of your vehicle of snow and ice thoroughly before you drive. Even a split second of reduced visibility caused by snow falling off of your roof and down your windshield can cause an accident. Finally, before you head out, check your tire pressure, put on your seatbelt, and turn on your headlights. If the weather is below freezing, make sure your gas tank is at least half full.
Have an Emergency Kit
Another important preparatory step that you can take is to make sure your vehicle is stocked with emergency items that will keep you safe in case your battery dies and you become stranded or are in an accident and have to wait for police to arrive in cold weather. Here is a checklist that you can use to make sure you have everything you need in this type of situation:
- first aid kit (bandages, scissors, antibiotic ointment, tape)
- extra cell phone charger
- bottled water and non-perishable snack foods
- warm blanket
- hand warmers
- tool kit for minor car repairs (wrench, pliers, socket set, flathead and phillips screwdrivers, duct tape, spare fuses)
- jumper cables
- fire extinguisher
By being prepared, you will be as safe as possible in case of an accident in poor conditions.
Driving Tips for Snow and Ice
While we all like to think that we drive safely in poor conditions, it’s easy to forget, especially when winters are mild and we aren’t used to driving in reduced visibility or on ice. There are several driving tips worth revisiting before you drive in bad weather:
Reduce Your Speed
Whether you are driving in rain, in snow, or on ice, slippery conditions can cause your car to slide and, in worst case scenarios, end up in a ditch or crashing into another vehicle. While slipping and sliding is sometimes unavoidable, there is a lot that you can do behind the wheel to make a slip or slide safer for you and your passengers.
First, drive at a safe speed for the current conditions, even if that is far below the posted speed limit. It is always better to be safe than sorry, and even if you notice other cars passing you at high speeds, that doesn’t mean that you should follow suit. In addition, turn off your cruise control when conditions are poor. Reaction times are slowed in unfavorable weather, and you will have greater control over your vehicle if you don’t use it. It’s also a good idea to increase your distance from the vehicles in front of you to 8 to 10 seconds. That way, if you do slip on the ice or snow, you can take longer to stop if necessary.
Be Aware of Ice and Snow
Another important tip while driving in winter weather is to be aware of your surroundings. Look out for icy or snowy shoulders on the highway or areas near curbs in residential areas where the roadway has not been completely plowed of snow and ice. Drive on the part of the road that is clear. Also, remember that when temperatures dip, Ohio winter roads are commonly afflicted with “black ice,” or ice that is nearly invisible to the naked eye and therefore incredibly dangerous. Something that many people don’t know is that with a trained eye, you can learn to identify black ice quickly. For example, if you notice reflective or shiny spots on the road or see that pavement is reflecting the lights of passing vehicles, it could be black ice. Steer clear of these patches.
Respond Safely to Slips and Slides
As we all know, some slipping and sliding is bound to happen in winter, and in these cases, how you react is everything. If you hit a patch of ice or snow and notice that you are sliding, try to remain calm. Slow down your speed gently, but avoid slamming on the brakes. Instead, remove your foot from the accelerator and slowly but firmly apply the brakes so you can gradually stop. While it is often our impulse in these situations to jerk the steering wheel in the opposite direction, this will only exacerbate the spin. Instead, keep your steering wheel steady and in the same direction, even if it seems counterintuitive.
How Weather Can Impact a Car Accident Claim
When the worst happens and an accident occurs in poor conditions, one of the first things that many people wonder is whether they will still be able to receive compensation for their car accident claim. The answer here is always yes. Regardless of conditions at the time of an accident, you are still owed a duty of care by other drivers. In other words, they are still expected to drive cautiously and do their best to avoid unnecessarily harming other drivers. In fact, when conditions are poor, drivers are expected to be even more cautious than usual. If another driver acts negligently, even if the roads are icy, you are still entitled to compensation for any losses that you sustained in the accident.
Negligence in Bad Weather
What is considered negligence in bad weather? We often think of negligence in relation to speeding or driving while intoxicated, but in poor weather conditions, there are many additional actions that can be considered negligent. Driving too fast for road conditions, even if you are under the posted speed limit, failing to turn on headlights in reduced visibility such as rain or fog, or driving a car that is unsafely maintained for poor conditions could all be considered negligence. For example, if your windshield wipers don’t work and your view is obstructed by snow or your brakes need to be replaced and you fail to stop in time, you could be considered negligent because your failure to drive cautiously caused an accident.
Understanding Comparative Negligence
Sometimes, an accident is the fault of both parties, especially when road conditions are poor. In these cases, however, it is important to remember that Ohio observes comparative negligence laws for accident cases. That means that if you were in any way responsible for the accident, your settlement will be reduced, but this doesn’t mean that you are not entitled to recover damages.
Comparative negligence is calculated on a percentage basis. For example, if the court determines that you were 20 percent responsible for the accident and the other party was 80 percent responsible, your compensation will be reduced by 20 percent. As you can imagine, if you find yourself in a scenario where both parties are somewhat to blame, the case can get complicated. Working with an Ohio personal injury lawyer is one of the best ways to ensure that you are compensated for your losses.
When a Lawyer Can Help
If you were injured in an accident in bad weather, working with an experienced car accident lawyer is often your best course of action. Kisling, Nestico & Redick celebrated its 15th anniversary on February 15, and the firm has helped many Ohio drivers in accident cases involving bad weather.
The attorneys at Kisling, Nestico & Redick is well versed in comparative negligence cases, serious accident cases, and recovering damages from insurance companies. Kisling, Nestico & Redick offers free consultations and can help you understand your rights, the compensation you may be entitled to, and whether or not you have a case. To find out more, contact us at 1-800-HURT-NOW.