Kentucky is the country’s third most dangerous state for driving in the rain, according to a recent traffic safety study in the Louisville Courier Journal. With more rain and inclement weather during winter months, it is important to focus on driving safety in adverse weather to avoid car accidents.
Consider the following winter weather driving tips and be prepared to drive safely, regardless of what the season brings.
Rule No. 1 for driving in inclement weather is to avoid getting on the road if it’s not a necessity. A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that car accidents reported during adverse weather and/or roadway conditions represented 21 percent of all crashes, 18.5 percent of all injuries, and 15.6 percent of all fatalities annually over a five-year period. Inclement weather conditions investigated by AAA researchers were rain, snow, sleet and fog.
Inclement weather makes driving more dangerous and car accidents more likely.
Rule No. 2 is to slow down when driving in inclement weather. In snow, icy conditions, rain or fog, you should drive at a lower speed appropriate to the conditions and increase following distances. Allow more space between your car and the vehicle ahead of you.
You need to slow down because it takes longer for a car to stop on roads made slick by rain, ice or snow. Higher speeds increase stopping distances, too. It is harder to control a fast-moving vehicle on slippery roads. Rain, falling snow and fog reduce visibility as well, making traveling too fast even more dangerous.
Keep in mind that other drivers may not slow down and drive at speeds appropriate for winter weather and road conditions. Having extra space between your car and the vehicle ahead gives you more time to react if the driver in front goes into a skid or makes an unexpected maneuver.
When driving in the snow or icy conditions, maintain a slow and steady pace and stay as far away from other vehicles as you can. The objective is to keep your car from sliding and to avoid other vehicles if they begin to slide.
Cars skid or spin when one or more tires suddenly get a firmer grip on the road than the others. Drive as straight as possible in snow and be careful when braking and turning. Ease off of the accelerator to slow your vehicle instead of braking, if you can. Drive in tracks made by other vehicles if there are any.
If your car starts to skid, stop accelerating, but don’t brake. Steer your car in the direction you want to go and/or away from hazards. If the skid continues and your car starts to spin around, steer gently into the skid. Accelerate slowly when the tires grip the road once again.
So-called ‘black ice’ is a special concern in winter because it is a hidden hazard. It is ice that has frozen clear and blends in with the color of the road. Drivers who hit patches of black ice and begin to slide may panic and make a mistake that leads to a crash.
Black ice forms after rain or melted snow freezes, often at night. It is something to keep in mind on your morning commute. You might spot black ice on parts of the road where water collects or that don’t get enough sun to dry during the day, such as:
Remember that ice forms first on bridges and elevated ramps. Be alert when approaching an area where black ice is likely. During the day, look for ice on the road to reflect the sunlight. At night, ice may reflect headlights. If the tires of the cars ahead of you suddenly quit spraying water, they may be on ice.
We know that fog reduces visibility. It’s easy to forget that heavy fog also makes roads wet. In addition to slowing down and increasing following distances, fog requires headlights so that you can see and be seen by others.
Remember that high beams will reflect off heavy fog and reduce visibility further. Use low beam headlights in fog unless your vehicle is equipped with fog lights.
Be cautious when cresting hills or rounding blind curves in foggy conditions. Signal well ahead of turns or lane changes. When slowing or stopping, tap your brakes so your brake lights will blink and alert drivers behind you. Tap your brakes as you enter a thicker fog bank to catch the attention of drivers behind you and warn them to fall back.
In heavy rain, there is a danger of hydroplaning. Your vehicle’s tires may lose contact with the road and ride on the surface of water covering the roadway. On a multi-lane highway, hydroplaning is more likely in outside lanes where rainwater can pool.
If you feel your vehicle begin to hydroplane or skid, lift your foot from the accelerator but do not brake. Steer in the direction you want the car to go. As the tires regain traction, accelerate gently to reestablish control of your vehicle.
Many people, especially as they get older, have difficulty seeing when it rains at night. Rainfall decreases visibility and wet roads reflect lights to create glare. In addition to slowing down after nighttime rain, avoid focusing your eyes on the center of the area your headlights illuminate. AAA suggests that by focusing on the edges or outlines of objects your eyes will pick up images quicker.
Not all car accidents that happen in bad weather are strictly weather-related. Drivers who cause car accidents because they did not exercise proper caution in inclement weather may be held accountable for injuries, property damage and other losses they cause.
At the Becker Law Office in Louisville, we help individuals and families injured in car accidents get back on their feet financially. If you’ve been hurt in a car crash that was caused by another driver’s negligence or recklessness, give us a call. We have offices in Louisville, Lexington and Florence, KY, and accept cases from across Kentucky. Contact us for a free evaluation of your case today.