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Illinois Winter: Pretty-Looking, Ugly Driving Conditions

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Winter in Belleville, Illinois, is hitting us full force and it’s frightful—but not in the charming “Let It Snow” sort of way. We’ve all been there: the snow is beautiful until you have to walk down your icy driveway, or worse, drive to work during rush hour. The fact of the matter is, snowstorms are coming, and you do not want to be a crash statistic.

It is human nature to think accidents are not going to happen to you. In our line of work, however, we learn that the weather is unforgiving, and weather-related car accidents do happen. In fact, a LaPorte County man was killed this December when his car slid on a snow-slicked stretch of the highway. In Kokomo, Indiana, a semitrailer and a police cruiser were involved in two separate crashes in the same day, with some injuries.

While it is hard to know for sure, safe winter driving practices may have lessened the damage and injuries in these cases. So if you learn nothing else to prepare for winter driving, you should at least know how to combat these three winter driving hazards:

  1. Black ice: There’s nothing like black ice to get you gripping your steering wheel until your knuckles turn white. That is, if you can see it. Black ice forms during rain, when the surface of the road is cooler than the air. The rain freezes as it hits the ground, forming clear, hard-to-see ice that looks black because of the pavement. It can also form when ice thaws, and re-freezes again in a thin layer. It is hard to spot, but look out for a duller, darker patch of the road. If you get caught on black ice, keep your foot off the gas and don’t make a sharp turn because you may overcorrect.
  2. Unexpectedly deep snow: Good for sledding, bad for driving. If you are in a rural area or find yourself in an unexpected patch of unplowed road, you may be pushing through deep snow. Jack Baruth of Wired says that you can drive through snow like a pro if you upgrade your hardware, and think slow. You may not have snow tires, but you can definitely adjust your strategy last-minute in the snow. Press the gas delicately, turn slowly and deliberately, and avoid stopping completely when possible. If you get stuck in a snowbank, that’s the time to whip out your cell phone and call AAA to get you out.
  3. Poor visibility: With rain, snow, and fog comes decreased visibility—the kind where you think turning the radio down will help you see better. If there is snow or ice on your windshield before you leave, make sure to scrape it off the entire surface, not just right in front of the driver’s seat. Next, turn on the defrost button and turn up the air to reduce fog/humidity and increase visibility.

Avoiding Multiple-Car Crashes

Speaking of poor visibility… reduced visibility means that a two-car accident can turn into a ten-car accident real quick. Consider practicing some defensive driving tactics to avoid being one-tenth of that nightmare. Our single most significant piece of advice is to increase the distance between your car and other cars. If an accident were to occur, increased distance means you have more time to react and avoid the pileup. You should also avoid fatigue (usually, by sleeping more) in order to maintain your reaction time. Finally, and you have heard it many times, do not use your phone or other handheld device while driving. The additional distraction will greatly reduce your reaction time and could get you involved in an avoidable collision.

Winter Weather – Get it Together

Small steps like these are so important that the Illinois Department of Transportation has begun its “Winter Weather – Get it Together” campaign to urge drivers to take simple measures toward preparedness. For example, IDOT recommends you check your windshield wipers to make sure they are working properly (WAND). You can’t have visibility without them. IDOT also allows you to check travel conditions anytime by calling 1-800-452-IDOT (4368) or by visiting gettingaroundillinois.com.

But What If the Winter Accident Wasn’t My Fault?

When winter driving accidents do occur, a driver’s liability does not magically go away because it is icy outside. (That is just another reason to avoid accidents at all costs.) If you are the victim of a car accident at the hands of another driver, he or she is still liable for negligence and your potential injuries and damages, even if driving was made more difficult by the weather.

Our best advice for readers and clients? If it’s dangerous out, stay indoors. However, if you are hurt by another driver (who probably did not prepare by reading this article), an attorney can help. Winter driving accidents can go very wrong very fast. Do not hesitate to contact our knowledgeable Belleville car accident attorneys if one occurs.

We, John Hipskind and Brady McAninch of Hipskind & McAninch, LLC, offer a free consultation—and nobody has been sorry for talking to us yet. Either we take your case, or we give you solid legal advice and point you in the right direction, no matter your matter. Call us at (618) 641-9189 or shoot us an email at info@hm-attorneys.com.

Safe driving to all!

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