Each season presents its own set of unique driving challenges. While some Idaho winters are no joke, most are relatively mild, with only a few days of major snowfall here and there others can be very intense and hazardous. Regardless of the amount of snow that accumulates on Idaho’s roadways, winter is certainly the most dangerous time of the year to operate a motor vehicle. A winter car accident can be fairly common in Idaho – the slick roads, compounded by limited visibility can be the result of some pretty serious car accidents. Typically the worst conditions begin in November, and can last all the way up to late February or early March.
According to Safe Winter Roads each year, an estimated 116,000 people are injured and 1,300 people are killed on snowy, slushy or icy, winter roads in the United States. In addition to these dangers, a major snowstorm can cost states from $300 million to $700 million dollars per day in direct and indirect costs relating to impassable, or shut-down motorways.
While various resources are deployed to make our roads safe to drive on, snowplows and road salt can’t miraculously appear everywhere they are needed in a timely manner. Remember the “Snowpocalypse” of 2016-17? That year, 39 inches of snow fell in the Treasure Valley from November to March. Even major city roadways were covered in snow for most of that winter. While some reports say we may have another massive snowfall for the 2020-2021 season, we’ll just hold out hope that it doesn’t get that bad again.
Car accidents are more likely during the winter season
Black ice, holiday shopping traffic, school busses and less daylight are just a few of the reasons why winter driving can be more dangerous. Driving should be taken seriously year-round, but there is definitely more to watch out for on the roads in these cold winter months. Mall area traffic is heavy around the holidays. Many semi-trucks are on the road, trying to keep stores stocked to meet consumer demands. People travel from out of state to visit family and some people make poor the decision of deciding to drink and drive. All of these factors, combined with slick roads and lower visibility can make any short drive a potentially dangerous excursion.
In Idaho, winter storms can seemingly come out of nowhere. Snow can accumulate on the roads fast, even just while you’re inside the store doing the weekly grocery shopping. Assuming you are confident with your driving abilities in the snow, the other drivers around you might not be. They could lose control of their vehicle at any moment, putting you and your family’s lives at risk. While no one plans on getting into a car accident, during wintertime they can be much more likely. If you happen to become injured in a car accident, the winter conditions can make the bad situation much worse. Icy roads may cause other cars to slide and the reduced visibility gives drivers less time to react.
What to do if you’re injured in a winter car accident
While the winter weather and surrounding conditions may make a car accident more likely, ice on the roads is never an excuse for driver negligence. If you were hit by another driver, they may have been operating their vehicle in an unsafe manner. Plenty of factors can come into play when determining fault in a winter automobile accident. Certainly drivers cannot themselves be blamed for the inclement weather, but they are still responsible for operating their automobile in a safe matter, with concern for the current road conditions.
Determining who is liable for an auto accident will depend on the degree of negligence which can be attributed to each driver involved in the accident. If any motorist is found to have been driving in a manner which could be considered unsafe under the conditions, they may be liable for their negligence.
Factors that could play into a driver’s liability in a winter car accident.
- Driving too fast. This is the most common cause of accidents on Idaho’s winter roads. Speeding is dangerous for pavement that is covered in snow or ice. It is crucial for drivers to slow down when any poor weather condition exists. Simply put, drivers should slow down while exercising extreme caution when driving on slick or icy roads. This will allow more time for braking and stopping, in case of intermittent road hazards.
- Having a poorly-maintained vehicle. Regular tune-ups and proper vehicle maintenance are imperative for winter driving safety. One of the worst maintenance hazards is poor tire care. Not only does your tire’s air pressure drop as the temperatures drop, but worn tread on your car’s tires can also make it more difficult to gain traction on slick and icy roads. Windshield wiper blades and lights are also important as they can help with visibility while driving. Neglecting the care of wiper blades and defrosters can threaten visibility while driving.
- Distracted driving. The same types of driving distractions that can put us at danger any time of the year are even more risky during the winter months. The possibility of losing control of your vehicle on slick roads leaves zero margin for reckless behaviors while driving. Texting, talking on the phone, driving while under the influence, drowsy driving or any other form of distracted driving may make a driver liable for a winter car accident, just as it would any other time of the year.
When a collision happens, the insurance companies will try to determine fault based on a number of different factors. While they do take weather and road conditions into account, they expect drivers to take the necessary precautionary measures while operating a moving vehicle. In reviewing the accident, the insurance adjustors may also look at the speed at which each driver was traveling, statements and testimony from drivers and eyewitnesses, the police report and any photographic evidence available to them at the time they begin processing your claim.
At Caldwell Law Group, PLLC, we handle all sorts of personal injury claims, from automobile and semi-truck accidents, slip and fall cases and hit-and-run cases. We offer a free initial consultation, so there is no need to worry about money up front, when you’re deciding how to proceed with your personal injury claim. We have fought to ensure the rights of our clients in Idaho and Washington for decades. If you have been injured in an accident, please call us right away. We can help get your life back to normal.
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