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Ohio is one of the most dangerous states for wintertime driving. A recent analysis of three years of crash data determined that Ohio was the fourth-most-dangerous state for winter driving, and had the second-highest number of winter road fatalities.
In fact, the state has consistently ranked among the most dangerous for winter driving across several years. Though Ohio isn’t near the top of the list for snowfall, the annual average of more than 26 inches is plenty to create some hazards for motorists.
Often, we hear about car and truck crashes that happen “due to snow and ice” or “because of the weather,” but snow, ice, and other winter weather conditions are just one variable. The choices you make as a driver significantly increase or decrease the likelihood that you’ll be involved in a winter traffic accident.
Maintenance and Preparation for Winter Driving
Staying safe on snowy and icy Ohio roads starts before you ever get behind the wheel, with safety measures such as:
- Make sure your tires are winter-appropriate and in good repair. Ideally, in Ohio, that means winter tires. If you don’t have and can’t get snow tires, consider good winter-rated all-season tires or chains. Tires require regular inspection in the winter, especially when you’re setting off on a long drive. Tire pressure can drop in the cold, so check the optimal tire pressure for your vehicle and make sure your tires stay properly inflated.
- Get your brakes checked. Driving with brakes in less-than-optimal conditions is dangerous at any time of the year, and winter moisture and salt can speed their deterioration.
- Clean off your car thoroughly. In cold winter temperatures, it’s easy to convince yourself that clearing your windshield and rear view mirror are sufficient. But, that’s not enough. It’s important to completely remove snow from headlights, taillights, and signal lights to ensure other drivers can see you clearly and know when you’re braking or turning. And, snow piled up on your hood or the roof of your car may break loose on the road, blinding you or another driver.
Safe Driving Strategies for Winter
Many safe driving tips for winter are similar to everyday safe driving practices, but are all the more important in winter and may require adjustment on snowy and icy roads or when visibility is low. For instance:
Make sure you maintain a safe following distance. You’ve likely heard that under normal conditions, you should maintain a following distance of two, three, or four seconds. That means when the car in front of you passes a fixed object like a road sign, it should take you a minimum of two seconds to reach the same object yourself. But, winter road conditions often mean it will take longer to slow or stop, and that the risk of skidding out of control if you’re forced to brake quickly is greater. That means a larger gap–ideally, at least eight seconds–is safer.
Pay attention! Distracted driving is a danger on any road, during any season. The risks associated with taking your eyes off the road for even a few seconds increase when visibility is low, roads are slick, and reaction time may be critical.
Adapt your speed to conditions. When blowing snow makes it hard to see, roads are slippery, or there’s a danger of black ice, the posted speed limit might not be the safe speed limit.
Assume the worst. A road that looks clear may be harboring dangerous black ice. When conditions are right for roads to be slick, be vigilant. Increase following distance even if you don’t see hazards in your immediate path, especially if there have been black ice warnings.
Who is Responsible for Ohio Ice and Snow Traffic Accidents?
Clearly, slippery roads and low visibility play a role in winter traffic accidents. But, that doesn’t mean a traffic crash on snowy roads is “just an accident” and nobody’s fault.
The key questions are:
- Was the person or entity negligent (meaning that they had a responsibility to exercise a degree of care and didn’t do it), and
- The negligence caused or substantially contributed to the crash and resulting injuries
For example, a driver who is driving too fast for conditions, distracted, or following too close may be partly or fully responsible for the accident. Similarly, a motorist who hasn’t taken the trouble to install appropriate tires or whose brakes fail due to poor maintenance may bear responsibility for a traffic crash.
Can the City or State Be Responsible for a Bad Weather Accident?
In some cases, the entity responsible for designing, constructing, or maintaining roads may be responsible or partly responsible for a snow-related traffic crash. The fact that there’s snow and ice on the road typically won’t be enough to trigger liability. But, if there are dangerous conditions that the responsible party knew about or should have known about and failed to fix, they may be liable.
A practical example
Imagine, for example, that there’s a spot at the bottom of a slight hill on the highway where water routinely pools. In winter, the water periodically freezes, meaning drivers may hit an unexpected patch of ice at the bottom of the hill. If the city or state responsible for road maintenance knows about the hazard (or should) and hasn’t taken steps to repair it or to warn drivers of the hazard, they may be liable for an accident that occurs when an unsuspecting driver hits that patch of ice.
Who bears legal responsibility for a traffic crash depends on a variety of factors, and in some cases, there may be more than one responsible party. A driver who was partially responsible may even be able to recover some compensation. An experienced Ohio car accident attorney can help assess who may bear or share responsibility for your accident.
If you’ve been involved in a traffic accident, get in touch with us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.