In early February 2023, a devastating winter storm system caused major disruptions to day-to-day life for thousands of people across the nation. This storm system grounded 2,300 flights, left hundreds of thousands without power, forced school closures, and made driving conditions worse. Watches and warnings about wintry conditions were issued for an area stretching from West Texas to Tennessee and Mississippi. The storm system brought mixed precipitation, including freezing rain and sleet to many areas. Governor Greg Abbott of Texas urged citizens to stay off the roads as the winter storm that delivered a mix of freezing rain and sleet led to hundreds of auto collisions, and caused six deaths within the span of three days. Neighboring Arkansas also felt the impacts of icy conditions as Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders declared a state of emergency.
1. Ice and Snow
Ice and snow can create some of the most dangerous road conditions for drivers. As temperatures drop, icy patches can form on roads and highways, making them incredibly slippery and hard to navigate. Even a light dusting of snow can cause a driver to lose control of their vehicle and cause a serious auto accident.
Unsafe Road Conditions Caused by Ice and Snow:
- The low traction of ice and snow can cause a car to lose control and skid off the road
- Piles of snow can hide patches of ice that a driver may not be able to see in time
- The roads freeze over faster than they can be treated with salt or other chemicals
Injuries from an auto accident caused by poor road conditions can range from mild scrapes and whiplash to broken bones or worse. While ice and snow on the roads can be dangerous to both drivers and pedestrians by creating hazardous driving conditions, there are some ways to stay safe behind the wheel when encountering wintry weather, such as:
- Checking the weather and road reports before setting out on a journey is essential in avoiding any accidents due to poor road conditions
- Driving more slowly than usual will reduce the chances of losing control and increase reaction time in case of an emergency
- Keeping extra blankets, food, water, and a fully charged cell phone in your car in case you find yourself stranded in a blizzard
- If it starts snowing while you’re out, pull off at a rest stop until visibility improves
The best way to avoid accidents in icy weather is to simply stay home and wait for the weather to clear up. If you must drive, however, remember to drive slowly, watch out for patches of ice and snow, and have the right equipment with you.
2. Poorly Maintained Roads
Unsafe road conditions can also be caused by a lack of proper upkeep. Natural weathering and erosion, such as during heavy rain or snowstorms, can cause uneven surfaces and cause cracks to form. Serious problems like flooding, potholes, and uneven surfaces can result if the roads are not properly maintained.
While most people are aware that flooding can occur when there is heavy rain, spring thaw, or hurricanes. Improper drainage and broken water mains can also cause flooding. In these cases, the water that accumulates can make roads slick and reduce visibility. These flooded roads are also extremely dangerous because drivers may hydroplane on the water and can potentially lose control of their vehicles.
Just six inches of water can cause drivers to lose control because tires can act as a flotation device in shallow water. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), just twenty-four inches of water can float a 3,000-pound car. Driving through flood waters could also fill your car with water from the engine through the return hose and render it useless. If you can’t see what is beneath the surface of the water, it is best to assume that it is too deep to drive through- water depth can be deceiving and could be a lot deeper than it looks.
Potholes can cause significant damage to a vehicle and have the potential to cause serious personal injury. Potholes are caused by water seeping into the pavement and eroding it, often causing large cavities in the road surface. When driving, these large cavities can catch tires and cause sudden jolts or misdirection of vehicles, leading to potential accidents. They can also cause damage to a vehicle’s suspension system and tires.
Be mindful of the road surface and any irregularities you see. Make sure to give yourself enough time to slow down but be aware of any cars around you. Don’t cause an accident with another car by trying to avoid a pothole. Obey speed limits at all times, especially in areas where roads may not be in the best condition. Speeding can increase the chances of damaging your car when hitting a pothole or other irregularities in the road surface.
Malfunctioning Traffic Lights.
When a traffic light is not working properly, it can lead to confusion among drivers, resulting in an increased risk of an accident. Malfunctioning traffic lights can be caused by several factors, including power outages, neglecting regular maintenance, and software errors.
Drivers should pay close attention when approaching a traffic light to ensure it is operating correctly. If the light is flashing yellow, treat the intersection as a four-way stop and proceed with caution. If the light is completely dark or unresponsive, drivers should treat the intersection as an all-way stop and yield to other vehicles on the road. Additionally, drivers should be alert for other drivers who may not be obeying the rules of the road when encountering a malfunctioning traffic light.
3. Construction zones
Construction zones often present dangerous road conditions that can easily lead to car accidents. Construction zones can be hazardous because they often involve multiple drivers, large machinery, and large loads of building materials. Drivers must be especially cautious when driving through construction zones due to the added risk.
Some reasons why construction zones are particularly dangerous are:
- Reduced visibility or large equipment can block the view of oncoming traffic.
- Unexpected changes in the road, such as dips or bumps, due to excavation or paving work.
- Debris scattered across the road, including nails, screws, and broken pieces of material.
- Drivers can frequently stop and start, as well as make unexpected lane changes.
It is important for drivers to be aware of their surroundings and to drive cautiously when entering a construction zone. There are several ways drivers can mitigate danger from construction zones and reduce the likelihood of an accident.
To reduce the likelihood of an accident drivers can:
- Watch out for construction workers and their signals, such as stop signs, flags, or cones.
- Follow the posted speed limit, even if there is no visible traffic enforcement present.
- Be alert and attentive to surroundings, including other vehicles and workers.
- Avoid tailgating other vehicles as sudden stops can be more frequent in construction zones
- Allow plenty of time for your commute and plan alternate routes if possible.
By slowing down, paying attention, and following the posted signs, drivers will not only reduce the chance of being involved in an accident but also help protect the workers onsite.
4. Poor visibility
Poor visibility is a very common cause of auto accidents. Low visibility due to fog, snow, rain, or power outages makes it difficult to see other drivers and the road can cause accidents.
Poor visibility is a major safety hazard because it:
- Limits the amount of time available for drivers to react to hazards or obstacles on the road. This increases the likelihood of collisions.
- Reduces depth perception, making it difficult to accurately judge distances between objects and leading to misjudgments and unsafe maneuvers.
- Increase fatigue in drivers as they strain their eyes trying to make out objects in the dark.
To avoid accidents due to poor visibility, it is important to practice safe driving habits such as checking their headlights and tail lights before driving to ensure that they are working properly. Additionally, drivers should use their high beams when appropriate and use caution when driving in heavy fog or other low-visibility situations. Keeping an extra pair of glasses in the car is a good idea for drivers who need them to safely drive. Even contact wearers should consider a spare pair of glasses should a contact unexpectedly get lost, rip, or fall out.
Drivers should always be aware of their surroundings and keep an eye out for pedestrians and animals on the road. By taking these precautions, drivers can ensure their safety and help prevent accidents from occurring due to poor visibility.
5. Drowsy, Drunk, and Distracted Drivers
Drowsy, drunk and distracted drivers can cause serious car accidents that can result in deadly consequences. It is important to be awake, alert, sober, and attentive when driving to keep yourself and others safe.
Driving while drowsy is a major safety hazard. It affects thousands of drivers each year and can lead to serious and even deadly car accidents. While drowsy driving may seem harmless, it can be just as dangerous as distracted or impaired driving. The National Highway Safety Administration estimates that 50,000 injuries occur across the U.S. every year due to drowsy driving.
Drivers can stay safe by:
- Getting enough sleep before driving: Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
- Taking breaks when needed: If you find yourself getting sleepy while driving, take a break to rest and recharge.
- Not driving at times when you normally feel tired: Late night or early morning trips can be more dangerous for drowsy drivers.
- Having another person in the car can help keep you awake and alert on long drives.
- Caffeine may provide temporary relief from fatigue but will not prevent crashes from occurring.
Drowsy driving can have serious consequences for drivers, passengers, and other road users. Taking steps to ensure that drivers are alert and attentive is essential for avoiding car accidents caused by unsafe conditions.
Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of car accidents, with texting and talking on the phone being the two most commonly-cited culprits. Distracted drivers take their eyes off the road, their hands off the wheel, and their minds off the task of driving safely, which can easily lead to a dangerous or even deadly accident.
Distracted drivers make unsafe road conditions because:
- Drivers can become less aware of their surroundings
- Driver reaction time can be slowed significantly when their focus is diverted from the road
- Drivers may make mistakes that cause traffic violations or lead to an accident
Injuries resulting from distracted driving can range from minor to life-threatening. Because drivers are not paying attention to the road, they may not have time to react to obstacles in their path that could’ve otherwise been avoided, leading to serious injury or even death.
Avoid distracted driving by:
- Putting your phone away while you are driving, or put it on silent and keep it out of reach
- Planning and map out your route before you start driving so you won’t be tempted to check your phone while on the go
- Maintaining your vehicle so you don’t fuss with any knobs or buttons while on the road
Alcohol-impaired driving is a serious issue across Oklahoma and the nation as a whole. According to the Department of Transportation, in 2019, 28% of all traffic fatalities involved an alcohol-impaired driver. This means that every day, people are put in danger on the roads due to drivers operating under the influence of alcohol. Not only can drunk driving lead to injuries and fatalities, but it can also lead to significant property damage.
Consuming even small amounts of alcohol can cause:
- Poor coordination and slower reaction times
- Difficulty in following traffic laws
- Increased risk of crashing into other vehicles, objects, or pedestrians
- Impaired vision and judgment
Consuming even one alcoholic beverage can impair driving ability, so it is important to make plans for a sober ride before drinking. Always plan ahead by choosing a designated driver or other safe transportation. Reporting any drunk drivers can help ensure the safety of those on the road and the driver themselves. If you see someone driving erratically or dangerously, call 911 to report the incident.
What to do if you are in an accident
When an auto accident happens, it can be a traumatic and frightening experience. It is important to remain calm and know what steps to take.
- Check for injuries: The first step is to check for any injuries that may have occurred. Make sure all passengers are ok, and call for medical help if needed.
- Document the scene: Be sure to take pictures of the scene of the accident, including all vehicles involved, the surrounding area, and any damage. This will be valuable evidence when filing an insurance claim or speaking with a personal injury lawyer.
- Report the accident: Immediately file a report of the accident with law enforcement. Make a statement of what happened but don’t admit fault or answer any further questions. You should never admit fault at the scene of an accident, even if you think you are partially responsible.
- Gather information: Get the other driver’s insurance information and contact details. Write down the names and contact details of any witnesses. While it’s important to gather information, do not talk to the insurance company yourself, and don’t sign anything without consulting a professional first.
- Seek medical attention: Even if your injuries aren’t severe, it is important to seek medical attention. Inform the attending physician that you have been in an accident and get copies of all paperwork.
- Speak with a lawyer: When you are injured in an accident, it’s important to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer who can help ensure you get the compensation you deserve.
Following these steps after an auto accident can help ensure your safety and well-being and protect your legal rights.
Keeping Yourself Safe on The Road
There are several ways to reduce the chances of being involved in an auto accident. Keeping up with regular vehicle maintenance is key. This includes checking your tires, brakes, and other vital components regularly. You should also ensure that all lights are working properly and that your windshield wipers are in good condition for safe driving in inclement weather. It is also important to ensure that everyone in your car is wearing their seatbelt at all times. Finally, staying alert and aware of your surroundings while driving will help you avoid any potential hazards on the road. Taking these steps can help you stay safe on the road and reduce the chances of being involved in an auto accident. Contact us or call us at 918-359-6600 today for a free consultation.