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Winter weather can lead to injury-causing car accidents

Winter weather can make driving hazardous, leading to car accidents.

As we all know, Illinois winters can be brutal. Not only is there falling snow that sometimes leads to "whiteout" conditions, but gusting winds, ice - particularly black ice, the clear sheet that forms over roadways, parking lots, bridge decks and other surfaces when the heat from vehicles melts ice and it refreezes - and subzero temperatures make this a very hazardous season. The U.S. Federal Highway Administration estimates that nearly a quarter of all car accidents each year are weather-related, and many of those happen because of harsh winter conditions.

This time of year can be dangerous on the roads due in no small part to the fact that mistakes and poor choices people make throughout the year (like driving while distracted by electronic gadgets like cellphones, tablets and portable GPS devices, "drowsy driving" and driving under the influence) are magnified. You see, all the above driver behaviors make reaction times slower, and when winter road conditions make it more difficult for the vehicle itself to react, accidents will occur. All that being said, yes, winter driving can be difficult - even dangerous - but that doesn't mean that an accident is a foregone conclusion. By practicing safe driving habits and planning ahead, it is possible to decrease your chances of being involved in a crash.

Avoiding winter's perils

Obviously, a major hazard of wintertime driving is the impact that cold weather has on road surfaces, particularly here in Illinois, where snow and ice are a daily part of our lives in the colder months. Compacted snow can make road surfaces bumpy and treacherous, while ice makes losing control a real possibility. Ice also makes it difficult to gain traction when stopping or starting your vehicle, leading to skids and sliding. In addition, icy roadways will typically require double or even triple the amount of time and distance needed to fully brake your vehicle. As a result, you'll need to adjust your speed when weather conditions "go south," and also greatly increase your following distance behind other vehicles.

Decreased visibility is also a wintertime hazard. Falling and blowing snow, as well as fog and freezing fog, can make it nearly impossible to see other drivers. Of course, staying off the roadways during blizzard or whiteout conditions is always a good idea if your travel isn't essential. If you must drive, though, there are some steps you can take to help you see other vehicles and be seen by them. These include:

  • Running your headlights (not just at night, but at dawn and dusk as well, when it's harder for other vehicles to see you)
  • Thoroughly clearing snow and ice from your vehicle's surfaces, focusing on the windshields but not forgetting about bumpers, windows, brake lights, headlights and turn signals
  • Running your front and rear defrosters
  • Using a windshield cleaner fluid containing an anti-freeze solution
  • Using your windshield wipers often to clear snow and splatter

As much as you do to keep yourself safe, there is still a chance you'll be the victim of another driver's bad behaviors. If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident caused by another person, you have legal rights. Before you settle with the other driver's insurance company, speak with a skilled personal injury attorney at Brady & Jensen, LLP. Call the firm toll-free at 866-930-2063 or contact them online today.

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