Winter in New Jersey can make roads treacherous. Snow, ice, slush, and other conditions can make the road sleek and difficult to maneuver in. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), one in every four cashes on U.S. roads each year is weather-related. Most of these the result of snow, ice, sleet, and other winter driving conditions.
A winter car accident is one of the worst kinds of car accident to have, given the potential for harm and liability. There are so many variables inherent with a winter car crash—and there are state and local municipal regulations governing winter driving. If you have a car crash in snow, an insurance adjuster may trick you into admitting liability just to avoid paying a claim.
New Jersey Stricter Snow & Ice Laws
After a snowstorm motorists in New Jersey are required to clear all snow and ice from their vehicles before driving. Snow and ice that neatly blows off your car when you’re doing 55 mph can strike another vehicle or impair its driver’s vision, causing an accident.
Previously, New Jersey drivers would receive a ticket only if the snow or ice accumulation from their vehicles caused property damage or injury when it struck. With the new law, it appears that your local policeman can pull you over and give you a citation just for tooling down Main Street at 15 mph with an inch of snow on your hood, whether or not it hits anything or anyone. Fines range from $25 to $75 if no damage or injury is caused to $200 to $1000 if there is damage or injury.
Commercial motor vehicles are subject to even higher fines. If you have ever been behind a tractor-trailer when an inch of snow and ice blew off its roof, you’re sure to understand why. Operators of commercial vehicles can be fined between $500 and $1000 for violations of the newly amended law.
Weather Related Crash Statistics
In the United States, there are over 1.5 million weather-related car accidents every year. Many of these were collisions caused by drivers that failed to tread with caution while driving in bad weather. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 24 percent of all annual crashes are weather-related.
- Rain: 707,000 annual crashes
- Snow and sleet: 225,000 annual crashes
- Icy pavement: 190,100 annual crashes
- Fog: 38,000 annual crashes
- Snow or slushy pavement: 168,300 annual crashes
- Wet pavement: 1,128,000 annual crashes
Causes of Winter Driving Accidents
Like other types of car accidents, winter driving accidents can be caused by any number of factors, including:
- Increased braking distance– Snow and ice prevent a vehicle from stopping as quickly as it might on dry, clear pavement.
- A vehicle that hits a patch of ice, slush, or packed snow may have some, or all, of its tires slide or skid. Anti-lock braking systems can help prevent slides and skids, but they do not eliminate this problem
- While driving in snow, ice, sleet, or freezing rain, it can become difficult for drivers to see, resulting in accidents. Drivers who fail to clear their cars thoroughly of ice or snow before starting out may also limit ability to see, increasing the chances of accidents.
- Distractions like cell phones, car radios, food, pets, and conversations with others in the vehicle can all take a driver’s mind, eyes, or hands away from the task of driving safely. When combined with the increased stopping distances needed by cars on snowy or icy pavement, even a moment’s distraction can have disastrous consequences.
- Black ice is the scourge of the winter driver. Black ice is dangerous for two reason; the first is that it causes most any vehicle, even some with snow tires and chains, to lose their grip on the road. The second, and far more impactful reason why black ice is so dangerous, and causes so many winter driving accidents and injuries, is because black ice is almost impossible for a driver to see, especially against the black background of the road. While it may seem impossible to defend yourself against this challenging driving condition, there are steps you can take to significantly reduce the likelihood that you’ll be involved in an accident as a result of black ice, snow, or sleet covered roads.
- Driving in the snow is usually not as difficult as driving on ice. However, some people get a false sense of security when they believe that roadways are covered by snow alone. Snow frequently hides a dangerous layer of ice underneath it. In addition, a heavy snowfall can quickly turn into a “whiteout,” meaning that the snow is so heavy you cannot see more than a few feet in front of you. Not surprisingly, this can significantly obscure a driver’s vision and result in an accident. Chain-reaction pileups can happen in whiteout or blizzard conditions due to the lack of visibility.
- Freezing rain refers to raindrops that cool as they pass through the atmosphere and then freeze on contact with the ground or a surface object. For a motorist on the roadway, the “object” can be the windshield of your vehicle, reducing your visibility to virtually zero in some cases. It can also freeze on the roadway, particularly on bridges and overpasses, leading to exceptionally slick conditions. Sleet consists of ice pellets that freeze before they hit the ground. Sleet can build up on roads, creating a driving surface that might look like packed snow but is often much more slippery.
- Driving in the Snow Accident Prevention: Understanding what the dangers are during winter is only the first step to staying safe. In order to avoid being the victim of a collision during the winter you must be proactive. There are a number safety measures you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones during the winter, including the following:
- Change to snow tires. If this is not possible, at least be sure your tires are in good condition. Proper traction can make all the difference when you encounter ice and snow on the road.
- Slow down. Speed limits are set for normal driving conditions, not for when there is snow, rain, ice, fog or other hazards.
- Do not tailgate. Following too closely increases the risk of a rear-end accident even under ideal conditions. Winter weather makes tailgating a recipe for a rear-end collision.
- Assume that there could be black ice on the roadway and drive accordingly. This is especially important to consider on bridges, below overpasses and in shady areas.
- Use four-wheel drive. Do not, however, become overly confident just because you have a four-wheel drive vehicle. While four-wheel drive helps in the snow it doesn’t stop you from sliding on ice.
- Put your vehicle into low gear. Using a low gear while going down a hill can reduce the need for brakes and prevent a skid.
- Know how to handle a skid. If you feel your car skidding, lift your foot off of the accelerator. If you begin skidding, turn the wheel in the direction you want to go. If you have anti-lock brakes, apply steady pressure to the brakes to stop. If your vehicle does not have anti-lock brakes, pump the brakes to keep them from locking up.
- Keep your windshield clean and clear. Be sure to warm your vehicle up and defrost your windshield, windows and lights before you hit the road. Keep an ice scraper in your vehicle and make sure your windshield washer fluid is topped off and has antifreeze in it.
- Think ahead. Plan plenty of extra time to stop at intersections or negotiate turns.
Contact New Jersey’s Trusted Winter Accident Attorneys
If you’ve been involved in a weather related car accident, contact the Law Office of Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi New Jersey’s trusted personal injury law firm. Our dedicated auto accident attorneys have years of experience in skillfully handling car accident injury cases. We are committed to providing outstanding legal results for every client we serve. To learn more about how we can help you or a loved one obtain justice after an accident, please fill out a free case evaluation form on this website, or call one of our local offices today for a free and confidential consultation. We view our clients like family, we will be there for you every step of the way and get you the compensation you deserve.