Staying Safe on Texas Roads as the Weather Changes
Winter is quickly approaching, and while Halloween is already on the books, the other holidays are on their way. In fact, we have a lot to look forward to in 2021. After a dismal – and lonely – holiday season in 2020, many of us are looking forward to breaking bread with a few family members this year, and that is something to be thankful for. It is important to remember, however, that with the holidays comes increased driving – both far and wide and in relation to in-town festivities – and when you add dangerous winter weather to the mix, it is imperative that you proceed with caution.
Wind, Rain, and Ice
As the temperatures fall and the wind picks up in accordance with the season, you can expect the roads to become more dangerous – often when you least expect them to (and when it is about as inconvenient as it can be). Many motorists believe that if the temps remain above 32 that there is no chance of the roads slicking up, but this is far from the truth of the matter. The fact is that high winds can decrease the temperatures on the road (in addition to the real feel that we experience), which means that black ice can lurk just about anywhere when the conditions are right.
Further, plain old rain can do just as much damage as ice when it comes to slicking up the road, decreasing visibility, and contributing to dangerous accidents. In other words, the building blocks of winter weather – wind, rain, and ice – have the capacity to put motorists at considerable risk, which makes slowing down – in accordance with the conditions on the road – the best and safest response.
The Duty of Care Motorists Owe One Another
Every person who gets behind the wheel of a car owes everyone else on the road a considerable duty of care that extends to following all the rules of the road, driving safely in general, and allowing for the safe passage of others. This responsibility is not static, and it evolves in relation to the condition of the road at the time. This means that, when driving conditions are perfect, motorists can follow the posted speed limit; pay careful attention to the traffic all around; adhere to all traffic signs, lights, and signals; be on the lookout for dangers ahead and call it a day in terms of upholding their duty of care to others.
When the weather is bad or is in the process of becoming bad, however, the duty of care we owe one another is amplified, and we are all responsible for proceeding with utmost caution in response to dangerous weather conditions. In other words, bad weather is not likely to absolve a driver of responsibility for negligent driving. Instead, the driver is responsible for responding to the bad weather safely – and if that means slowing down considerably and leaving the road at the first safe opportunity to do so, so be it.
Common Kinds of Accidents Seen in Bad Weather
Bad weather can contribute to nearly any kind of car accident, but there are certain kinds of accidents that are most commonly associated.
Both the low visibility and the increased stopping distances associated with bad weather can greatly contribute to rear-end accidents, which are some of the most common and the most dangerous accidents out there. Drivers are responsible for choosing driving distances that correlate with the conditions on the ground – including the dangerous effects of bad weather – and when they fail to do so, serious rear-end accidents can ensue. Additionally, heavy vehicles, such as trucks, SUVs, semis, and buses, require even longer distances and must increase the distance they maintain with other vehicles in order to help prevent life-threatening rear-end accidents.
A T-bone accident happens when a motorist who is traveling perpendicularly to another vehicle barrels headlong into the side of that other vehicle, and the weather can play a determinative role. Because the sides of our vehicles lack the protective cushion of the trunk at the back and the hood at the front, T-bone accidents can be exceptionally dangerous.
T-bone accidents are most common in intersections – where traffic traveling in all directions converges – and intersections can become especially dicey in bad weather when slippery conditions make all those vehicles that come together that much more vulnerable to colliding. When the oncoming vehicle fails to adequately account for the increased stopping distances required by inclement weather, he or she can find it nearly impossible to stop in time for a red light and to, thus, prevent a T-bone accident.
Rollover accidents have the distinction of being among the very most terrifying accidents out there, and they are just as dangerous as you likely imagine. Slippery roads and excessive speeds in response are often the impetus behind rollovers, and when a car flips on the road in front of you or beside you, you can expect the level of danger to also ratchet up considerably. If another motorist’s speed and general negligence cause you to slam on your brakes and rollover, it makes the matter that much more dangerous.
Head-on collisions often occur when a car drifts or, in the case of bad weather, slides out of his or her lane into oncoming traffic. The thing about slippery roads is that they not only make dangerous events more likely, but they also provide you with less time to react safely (leaving you with fewer options). The danger associated with head-on collisions is difficult to overstate.
Staying Safe out There
You recognize that winter is coming, and this makes planning ahead a great place to start. As the winter months approach, expecting the unexpected is well advised. Part of this is being ready to slow down at the first sign that the weather might be changing. The fact is that roads can become the slickest of all when light rain and/or sleet first begins to fall, which means that you have to be on your toes at all times. Many drivers are under the mistaken belief that keeping up with traffic is the surest way to stay safe on our roads, but these motorists are fooling themselves.
While you shouldn’t drive excessively slow for no reason, slowing down in response to inclement weather is the only safe option – and there is nothing you can do about the motorists who refuse to take the weather into consideration and continue to zip past you. Hopefully, they – too – will arrive alive, but all you can do is tend to your own driving. There are also other safety considerations you should keep in mind.
If planning ahead is good enough for the scouts, it is good enough for you. Whether you are traveling to your grandmother’s house this Christmas or are traveling anywhere else for any other reason this winter season, it is important to plan ahead. Check your route and check the weather along that route, and plan accordingly. If you need to make changes, it is far easier to do so when you allow yourself the time to address the matter upfront.
Whether this means tweaking your travel dates, altering your route, or doing anything else, putting some forethought into your trip is the way to go. Remember, too, that you are always safer when you travel during daylight hours, which are in short supply in the fall and winter months.
Pack a Safety Kit
You should keep a safety kit in your car all year round, and you should add to it in the winter months. Consider all the following:
Bottles of water and nonperishable foods
Candles, a tin can, and matches (for staying warm and melting snow for drinking water in the event of an emergency)
An extra phone charger and an external battery charger
A full-size spare tire (if possible) and the tools necessary to change a tire
A powerful flashlight
Warning triangles and flares for the road
Extra winter hats, gloves, and overcoats
A map of your travel route (never rely solely on your GPS)
Before heading out into the great unknown in the winter (or anytime, really), it is an excellent idea to let someone know where you are going and your planned itinerary. If something does go wrong, this helps to ensure that your loved ones are alerted sooner (when there is a better chance of being able to do something about it) rather than later.
Driver negligence is at the heart of most car accident claims, and when the weather is bad, such negligence is far more likely to prove deadly.
Regardless of the kind of winter weather that comes your way, slowing down is the only safe response. Drivers who refuse to take the weather into consideration or who simply think the laws of physics and the rules of safety do not apply to them make our roads more dangerous for everyone on them. Ultimately, when ice is involved, there may be no safe speed, and getting off the road becomes the best option.
Driving safely requires every driver’s utmost attention, and motorists who fail to live up to this obligation greatly increase the risk for everyone. The most dangerous distraction of all is texting behind the wheel, and far too many drivers are drawn to the practice. Texting manages to comingle all three categories of distraction into one deadly practice, including:
Engaging one’s vision
Engaging one’s thoughts
Engaging one’s hands
Consider the following common example that is often used to highlight the danger associated with texting behind the wheel: When a motorist sends or reads a text, it takes an average of five seconds, and in this time, the driver’s car can travel about the length of a football field with little or no specific guidance from the driver. This is terrifying enough in good driving conditions, but when the weather is bad, everything is amplified, including the stopping distance to come to a safe stop after ignoring the road and its weather-related risks for five seconds.
Impairment and Exhaustion
You know how dangerous it is to drive while under the influence of alcohol, and when the weather is bad, this danger is enhanced. Drunk drivers experience less impulse control, fewer inhibitions, and impaired motor control – all of which can prove deadly in response to inclement weather. Because exhaustion can lead to some of the same physical and cognitive impairments associated with being over the limit for alcohol, it is appropriate to consider it in the same category. Exhausted driving is a bigger danger than many people realize, and it can dull the warning signs that bad weather generally sets off in safe drivers.
If you are left injured by a negligent driver in bad weather, the damages – or losses – you suffer can be considerable and should be carefully addressed in your car accident claim.
If your injuries are serious, you can count on exorbitant medical costs that have the potential to be ongoing. If secondary health issues become a concern, you can expect to face medical expenses that reach into your future. Your medical costs can include:
Medical treatments, care, procedures, and tests
Physical and occupational therapy
While you heal, you can expect to be off the job and to experience lost earnings that could translate to lost earning potential.
Pain and Suffering
In addition to those damages that you can attach a price tag to, it is important to address the ones that cause you physical and emotional pain and suffering, and that can be even more difficult to master.
It Is Time to Consult with an Experienced Killeen Personal Injury Attorney
Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a seasoned personal injury attorney with an impressive degree of experience guiding weather-related car accident claims toward advantageous resolutions. To learn more about how we can also help you, please do not wait to contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 today.