winter weather car accidents

Every winter, cold weather winter conditions cause an increase in car accidents. In many of these car accidents, fault may be difficult to assign as snow or ice may be deemed the contributing factor. However, if a driver is determined to have been driving distracted, impaired, or too fast for the conditions there is a chance that they could be held liable.

Winter Weather Driving Conditions

About 70 percent of the American population lives in a snowy region; defined as an area that averages more than five inches of snowfall annually, according to the Federal Highway Administration. In many northern states, the winter weather driving season lasts from November through April; motorists can assume that they may encounter snow, freezing rain, slush, ice, or sleet during this time.

Road conditions and speed limits are affected by winter weather. Safe speeds on main arterial roads decrease by 30 to 40 percent when snow or slush is present. Safe freeway speeds slow by 3 to 13 percent in light snow and by 5 to 40 percent in heavy snow.

Winter Weather Car Accidents: Statistics

  • 24 percent of weather-related car crashes happen on snowy, slushy, or icy pavement; while 15 percent happen as the snow or sleet is falling.
  • Each year, more than 1,300 people are killed and more than 116,800 people are injured as a result of car accidents that occur on snowy, slushy, or icy pavement.
  • Additionally, almost 900 people are killed and about 76,000 people are injured each year in car crashes that occur during the snowfall or sleet.
  • As the snow season wears on, fatal car crashes decline. The majority of fatal car accidents involving snow conditions occur with the first snow of the season.
  • Both nonfatal-injury and property-damage-only car crashes increase significantly when it snows.

What Causes the Increase in Car Accidents in Winter Weather?

According to the University of California at Berkeley’s Institute of Transportation Studies, most car accidents that occur during winter weather conditions are as a result of a driver going too fast for weather or traffic conditions.

Other factors involved in winter weather car accidents:

  • The presence of snow and ice on a roadway means that motorists must allow for increased braking distance. An inexperienced driver and/or a driver experiencing the first snowfall of the season may not realize how much extra space they need to allow for safe braking.
  • Tires sliding and skidding on snow or ice are a very common problem in winter weather conditions. Anti-lock braking systems can help to decrease the risk of skidding / sliding but they do not erase the problem entirely.
  • The decreased visibility that can come along with driving while it is snowing, raining, or sleeting can increase the risk of car accidents. Failing to adequately clear your windshield, side windows and mirrors before setting out can also increase visibility impairment.
  • Distracted driving causes car accidents all year round but when it is combined with the increased stopping distances necessary when driving in winter weather conditions, it can be particularly problematic.

If you or a loved one were injured in an accident, you have enough to deal with. Let an experienced accident attorney fight for the full compensation that you deserve. It is not uncommon to receive a settlement from the insurance company that is five to ten times bigger with the help of a lawyer. Call the caring accident attorneys at Tario & Associates, P.S. in Bellingham, WA today for a FREE consultation! We have been representing residents of Whatcom County, Skagit County, Island County and Snohomish County since 1979. You will pay nothing up front and no attorney fees at all unless we recover damages for you!