Winter continues to hit us hard here in the Ocean State. As an attorney that travels to meet with clients all over Rhode Island and Southeastern MA, I witness on a daily basis just how dangerous our roads can be for drivers of all ages and levels of experience. Each year snow and ice on our roads leads to serious increases in the frequency of car accidents and motor vehicle related injury and deaths all throughout Southern New England. According to RIDOT statistics, 61 people died on Rhode Island roads between January 1 and September 30, 2017. At Sheeley Law, our priority is to keep you safe, so we have compiled eight tips to help you avoid an accident this winter.
- Maintain the proper air pressure in your tires. The air in your tires expands when heated and contracts when cooled. So, in colder weather, it is quite common for the pressure in your tires to decrease, which can pose a serious threat when you are driving. It is critical that you check your tire pressure often throughout the cold winter months. When properly inflated, your tires will have more dependable traction and provide better handling of your car.
- Remove snow and ice from your car before you hit the road. You have probably experienced the frustration of being behind a car on the highway that wasn’t cleared off, resulting in snow being blown all over your windshield and obstructing your ability to see for a few important seconds. It is important that you know driving a motor vehicle with any significant amounts of snow or ice on the vehicle is against the law in Rhode Island (R.I.G.L. § 31-23-16). If you must venture out in wintry conditions, you should clear all snow and ice off the entire car including the roof, hood, trunk, and license plates. Also, all glass surfaces and lights need to be clear and transparent, according to the Rhode Island State Police. This includes your windows, side-view mirrors, headlights and taillights.
- Maintain a greater distance than usual from the car in front of you. When driving in inclement weather conditions, it is truly imperative that you leave a substantial amount of space between you and the car in front of you. As a general guideline, use the six-second rule, which means that when the car in front of you passes a fixed point in the road, it should take you six seconds before you pass that same point. Yes, this might seem excessive, but it will prevent a potential auto accident if the car in front of you suddenly stops and it takes you longer than anticipated to slow down. During the winter, it’s important to relax your driving, avoid rushing and give others their space.
- Use your headlights, day and night. Winter weather often means gray skies and poor visibility even during the daytime. Your headlights increase the chance of other vehicles seeing you and aid in the ability of you seeing any problems that may be occurring in front of you. So, in addition to double-checking that your headlights are on when you drive at night, it is advisable that you get in the habit of using them during the day to be safe.
- Avoid using cruise control. For some people that drive a lot and for long distances, cruise control is a great feature as it can help prevent leg fatigue and can keep you from unwittingly speeding. However, utilizing cruise control in harsh conditions can be unsafe. During the winter months, attempt to make a conscious effort to ensure that you are not using it when driving in snow, ice or hail. If your car skids while cruise control is activated, it may continue to accelerate and rapidly spin the wheels in an attempt to maintain the selected constant speed. This is extremely dangerous and can make it more likely for you to lose control of your car.
- Limit any kind of distractions while driving. It is easy to become distracted by even the slightest of things, and sometimes you aren’t aware of it. Answering a text message or changing the radio station should be the least of your worries when driving in the snow. For your safety and the safety of others, stay focused and alert at all times.
- Do not slam on the breaks: All of a sudden, the car in front of you stops abruptly. What is your first instinct? Likely, it is to react by hitting your own breaks hard. However, when there is snow and ice beneath your tires, slamming on your breaks could make you lose control of your vehicle and send you sliding in any direction. The best approach is to immediately take your foot off the gas pedal, so you decelerate, and then slowly apply the brakes while maintaining control of your car.
- If your car hits a patch of ice and starts to skid, don’t panic. Perhaps easier said than done, but try to stay calm, take your foot off the accelerator and shift into neutral. Also, you should steer your car in the direction you want to go. If your rear wheels start sliding the other direction, turn back toward that side to get your car under control. If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), apply steady pressure. If you have standard brakes, pump them gently. Once you regain control, shift your car back into drive and slowly accelerate.
At Sheeley Law, we know that regardless of how cautious you are when driving during winter conditions, sometimes accidents are inevitable. If you or a loved one have been injured in an auto, truck or motorcycle accident this season, we are here to guide you every step of the way. We handle numerous cases each winter and have a proven track record of delivering results at critical times when results matter the most. Our goal is to get you back to health and receiving the compensation you deserve.