Why Do Car Accidents Increase in the Winter Months?
Approximately 70% of the roads in the United States are located in regions with at least 5 inches of snowfall or greater per winter season. Over 116,800 people are injured each winter in car accidents and over 1,300 fatalities occur during snowy months. Despite over $2 billion spent annually on managing snow and ice on state and local roadways, 24% of weather-related accidents occur during winter. In Utah, December is the leading month for car accidents with over 163 crashes per day compared to about 134 daily car accidents during the rest of the year. Why do car accidents increase during the winter season?
What Causes Winter Car Accidents?
Despite fewer people on the roads during winter weather, more accidents take place, especially in regions like Utah, where ski tourism results in many visitors on the road who are unfamiliar with the state’s winter driving conditions. Driving in the winter takes extra alertness and precautions. During the winter months, hazards contributing to increased accident risk include the following:
- Reduced traction from ice, snow, sleet, and wet road conditions
- Reduced visibility from falling snow, sleet, fog, and earlier nightfall
- Reduced directional control
- Longer required braking distances
- Fallen trees and branches in the roadway
- Buckled or uneven road surfaces due to frost heaving or the expansion of frozen soil under the roadway
Black ice is a serious danger during winter driving. Black ice occurs when a freeze occurs immediately after rain or sleet wets the road, or after a brief snow thaw causes wet roads during the day and then re-freezes. Black ice appears dark because it’s thin and transparent and the tar or asphalt shows through the thin surface layer. Black ice is dangerous because it takes a driver unaware and causes reduced traction and reduced steering control, often catching the driver unaware.
Improving Safety During Winter Driving
Ice and snow on the road cause a sliding risk while reduced visibility makes it difficult to see other cars on the road or for them to see you. You can reduce your chances of experiencing an accident during winter weather conditions if you limit driving only to necessary work and school commutes and important errands. If you must drive, consider the following precautions:
- Remove loose snow and ice from your vehicle before driving
- Be sure your tires are in good condition and use winter tires in regions with heavy snowfall. Add winter chains during severe snowstorms
- Keep up proper car maintenance, especially on brakes and steering system
- Avoid distractions from your phone or sound system
- Decrease your speed and increase the distance between your car and the vehicle in front of you
- Slow down any driving maneuvers such as accelerating, braking, turning, and changing lanes
No driver can prevent all accidents, but by taking proper precautions and driving with care and concentration, you can minimize the risk to yourself and others on the roadways. If you experience an accident due to the fault or negligence of another driver during winter weather, contact an experienced accident attorney to help you gain compensation for your damages.