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Posted in Uncategorized on January 31, 2017   |  by Gary Burger

Winter Weather Driving and Liability

What do you do for winter driving? You may notice out this window. You can see the barge going on the Mississippi. There’s the ice coming down the Mississippi right now. It’s kind of beautiful. Winter driving though. What do you do for winter driving?

Well, the Missouri and Illinois rules of the road have special rules about this. I’m often asked, “Hey, it was wet, icy weather. It wasn’t anybody’s fault.” Well, that’s not true. The Missouri and the Illinois rules of the road and the way you’re taught with driving is that you have to do certain things in icy weather.

Snow and ice can be on your windows, can obstruct your view. Make sure that you have that cleared off before you drive. Your vehicle should have tires that are rated and are ready to go for snow and ice. They should have good tread and they should be able to operate in inclement weather. Look at your tires and measure their tread depth.

When you’re starting on snow and ice, start smoothly and slowly. If you’re ever in a place where you’re going and you feel that you’re sliding, take your foot off the brake and try to steer out of the turn. Younger drivers lock up their brakes and they slide right into something. You have to think further ahead when you’re driving in snow and ice. You have to look farther ahead. So, if cars are slowing in front of you, stop earlier and stop slower.

Go with slower speeds. You don’t need to go at highway speeds. You can go a little bit slow. Don’t go too slow that your car is a hazard for those behind you. If there is snow or whiteout conditions or obstructing view conditions, slow down, move over. You could put your lights on if it’s 2 o’clock in the day, the sun’s out, but if it’s gray and snowy and there’s limited vision, put your lights on. If you’re going slow on a right-hand lane when it’s really bad snow, put your blinkers on to warn other drivers.

And remember that when highway department plows snow and ice, sometimes that right lane is clearer than that left lane. So, if you’re going behind slower cars in the right lane, stay there, relax about it. If you move over to left lane, you’re liable to hit snow and ice patches or also there are snow humps along the dotted center line that you need to be careful of.

Remember, it takes longer to stop your vehicle in snow and ice, so plan for that. Be attentive of that. Leave a safe distance, about 8 to 10 seconds between your vehicle and any vehicle ahead of you, says the Missouri rules of the road.

And bridges and overpasses are different than roads. Remember that the ground keeps roads warmer. A bridge doesn’t have ground underneath it, so the wind with the environment underneath it causes ice on bridges before it causes ice on the roads. The ground is a heat sink. It keeps things warmer.

If you have a four-wheel drive, do not use your four-wheel drive on pavement. It doesn’t have a differential that you need when you’re making turns and stuff and will skip and can cause car and truck accidents. You only use your four-wheel drive when you are going on the ice and snow. Remember, ice and snow, take it slow.

Let me see if the Illinois rules of the road have any additional tips and they do. Remember to be prepared. It’s kind of like the Boy Scout motto. Do you have a blanket in your car? Do you have any warm clothes in case you get stranded, in case you slip, or you have a flat tire and you need something? Are you prepared? Do you have a cellphone with you, a way to communicate to emergency vehicles to assist you?

Make sure your vehicle is maintained properly, not only with the tires but your lights and brakes and windshield wipers. Do you have plenty of windshield wiper fluid in your car? Because remember, when those other vehicles are kicking up that salt, it clouds your windshield. So, these are some of the things you want to do to be careful in the ice and snow.

My name’s Gary Burger. This is a video from Burger Law, my law firm. We regularly represent folks in these situations, and I regularly get questions, “Well, it was ice and snow, so it was nobody’s fault.” Well, that is not true. The rules of the road are clear about winter driving and driving in inclement weather and the precautions that licensed drivers have to do. It’s true for drivers, for truck drivers, for anybody else. So, if someone sustains a personal injury because someone is following too close or not doing these things, those drivers who caused that accident violated the rules of the road just as if they would have gone through a red light or just as if they would have been speeding or following too close or not yielding the right of way.

Be safe out there this winter. Thank you.