Car Accidents in Snow and Ice | Rhode Island Auto Accident Lawyer
Ice, snow and slush tend to pile up on Rhode Island roads in the winter. In those road and weather conditions, drivers owe a duty to be careful to their passengers and others on or near the road. When a driver fails to meet that duty, it can lead to a serious crash that injures or kills others.
Consider the following facts about winter car accidents from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA):
- 24 percent of car crashes caused by adverse weather conditions occur on snowy, slushy or icy pavement
- 15 percent of these crashes happen while snow or sleet is falling
- More than 1,300 people die each year in car accidents involving these conditions, while another 116,800 people suffer serious personal injury.
Most drivers know safe driving techniques for snow and ice. For example, they know to slow down and to leave more room between vehicles. If a driver fails to follow those techniques, however, the driver should be held legally accountable.
For more than 40 years, the attorneys of Gemma Law Associates, Inc., have protected the rights of vehicle accident victims and their families in Providence and throughout Rhode Island, including those hurt in car crashes in snow and ice. Contact us to discuss how we can help you.
Hazards in Rhode Island Winter Driving Crashes
Rhode Island’s five-month winter weather season generally runs from November 15 to April 15. However, snow, sleet, freezing rain and ice can occur earlier and later in the year.
The adverse winter weather creates two distinct hazards:
- Slick roads – Even a dusting of snow can increase the incidence of cars skidding and sliding. “Black ice” can also be a problem. This is ice that blends in visually with the road. Car tires simply can’t grip the road surface. A driver can lose control of the vehicle.
- Decreased visibility – Falling snow, sleet and freezing rain can obscure a driver’s view. Whiteout conditions can arise. A driver’s reference points are eliminated, and the driver can become disoriented. Also, snow or ice that reflects sunlight can cause a person to become “snowblind.”
Slick roads and decreased visibility in winter weather conditions make it crucial for drivers to practice driving techniques such as:
- Decreasing breaking or stopping distances
- Using headlights when snow is falling
- Putting on defrost to keep a clear windshield
- Slowing down when the roads clearly appear to be wet, snowy or icy
- Keeping a car in winter driving condition, including checking tires, brakes, headlights, wipers and defrost systems.
When Unsafe Drivers Meet Unsafe Conditions
The best advice for driving in snow and ice is to avoid it. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. If you do have to drive in snow and ice, the two main safety tips are “slow down” and “increase your following distance.”
Unfortunately, drivers who venture out in poor winter weather get into accidents because they do not drive safely. Some shrug off the hazards of driving on snow and ice, or they misjudge their abilities. Soon, they find themselves in car accidents.
Speed is the single greatest contributing factor in serious crashes in snow and ice, according to a Forbes magazine article quoting the University of California at Berkeley’s Institute of Transportation Studies.
It’s “not so much the violation of a posted speed limit, but when drivers ignore weather or traffic conditions that require a reduced speed,” the article says.
When someone is hurt because of another driver’s negligence in adverse weather conditions, the driver who acted without regard for the safety of others can be held accountable.
If you are hurt by a driver who did not adjust their driving behavior for adverse driving conditions, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the driver. If a commercial vehicle was involved, the company that employed the driver could be liable.
Caution Around Emergency Response Vehicles During Winter Driving
During the winter, the reality is that breakdowns often occur, and emergency response vehicles must come to drivers’ aid. In many cases, drivers may encounter utility workers repairing downed lines.
Unfortunately, drivers often ignore Rhode Island’s “Move Over” law. This failure can be especially dangerous in the winter. After all, vehicles responding to roadside emergencies may be unable to get far off the road due to snow banks created by plowed snow.
The “Move Over” law requires drivers to:
- On a multiple-lane road – Move over to the next lane or, if unable to do so, slow down while leaving as much room as possible between your car and the emergency response vehicle.
- On a two-lane road – Slow down while, again, leaving as much room as possible between your car and the emergency response vehicle.
Drivers must take these steps if they encounter a “designated vehicle” on the side of the road that is stopped, with its lights flashing or other traffic warning signs displayed. These vehicles include police, fire and ambulance vehicles, tow trucks, public utility vehicles, highway maintenance vehicles and transporter trucks.
Those emergency response workers who are struck while in the line of duty on the side of the road have a right to seek compensation for the harm they suffer – especially if the driver was violating the “Move Over” law at the time of the crash.
Contact a Rhode Island Car Accident Lawyer Today
If you or a loved one has been hurt in a winter weather car accident involving snow and ice in Rhode Island, the lawyers at Gemma Law Associates, Inc., can help you to seek compensation for your medical expenses and other losses.
To schedule a free consultation about your case, call our toll-free number today or take a few moments to fill out our online contact form. We can discuss your rights and legal options.