It’s no secret that winters in Minnesota can be rough; it’s part of the reason why 1.3 million accidents occur as a result of inclement weather conditions nation-wide. As a driver, it’s important to understand your responsibility when it comes to preventing winter-related personal injury accidents. Specifically, there are numerous safety tips you should keep in mind behind-the-wheel when unfavorable road conditions strike this winter. Accident prevention begins with you. After all, not only can a winter personal injury accident be physically and emotionally devastating to you and others involved, but it can also put you in a difficult financial situation.
Be a Safe Driver
Staying safe while navigating winter roads begins with taking care of your vehicle. As cooler weather approaches, now is a good time to check your tires’ treads and air pressure. You may need a new set of tires before winter hits in full-swing if you don’t have much tread left, especially if the tires fail the “penny test,” with the top of Abraham Lincoln’s head being visible when placed inside the tread. Furthermore, as colder temperatures hit, it’s possible that your tire’s air pressure will drop, which could increase your stopping distance and affect maneuverability. Take the time to check your air pressure and top it off, if needed.
Winter is also a good time to make sure all your fluids are topped off (especially windshield wiper fluid) and that your defrosters and brakes are in good working order. Having an emergency kit in your vehicle can also make all the difference when it comes to protecting yourself and others; a well-stocked emergency kit should contain:
- jumper cables
- a jack and tire rod
- a wrench set and pliers
- road flares and traffic cones
You may also want to add blankets, non-perishable food items, and water to your emergency kit so you can keep warm and fed in the event that you end up stuck in a ditch during the cold months.
When driving in slick conditions–especially while it’s actively snowing or sleeting–always increase your following distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you. When driving on city streets, you should be at least one to two car lengths behind the vehicle in front of you. While on highways and larger roads, three or more car lengths is ideal to reduce the risk of rear-ending accidents.
In the event that you find yourself losing control of your vehicle in winter weather, knowing how to act can make all the difference. Generally, when your vehicle is sliding on ice or other slick pavement, your best course of action is to pump your brakes (if you don’t have anti-lock brakes) and to keep your wheel turned to the direction you want to travel. Be careful not to overcorrect, which could cause your car to spin out and become a serious hazard to other vehicles on the roadway.
And as always, when preparing for a road trip, keep an eye on the weather in the days and hours leading up to your departure. Plan your trip with enough buffer that you can take your time in inclement weather conditions and still arrive when planned. When there is heavy snowfall, try to plan your route so you can stick to main roads as much as possible; this way, you can reduce the need to travel through backroads that have gone potentially untreated or have not been plowed.
Last but not least, remember to practice defensive driving–especially when winter road conditions are poor. Never assume that other drivers see you or are going to yield to you; by assuming the worst of other drivers, you can take actions to protect yourself and avoid an accident.
What to Do if You’re in an Accident
No matter how careful you are, there’s always a risk that you’ll be involved in an accident. If this occurs, contact the police, as well as EMS right away (if medical attention is needed). If the accident is minor, move the affected cars out of the roadway so as to avoid blocking traffic or causing another accident. Make sure you obtain a copy of the police report for your accident.
Never admit fault for an auto accident, even if you believe you may have caused or contributed to the accident. This may come back to haunt you down the road if you case goes to court, so it’s best to avoid outright. Also, be sure to take plenty of photos of the damage to both vehicles as well as the road conditions and location of the accident. These could come in handy in court, should a personal injury case be brought against you or should you choose to bring a personal injury case against the other driver. If there were any witnesses to the accident, try to flag them down and obtain their contact information, as their testimony could help your case in court.
Last but certainly not least, don’t hesitate to speak to a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible following your accident, especially if you’re incurring medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses as a result of another driver’s carelessness. If you’re looking for an experienced personal injury lawyer who is here to represent you and your best interests, be sure to contact us today. We’d be happy to schedule a consultation to discuss the details of your case and provide you with the legal advice you need.