Portland car accident lawyers explain how to stay safe on the road
Winter weather can make roads hazardous in Maine. In an instant, highways like I-95 and city streets in Portland, Waterville and other communities can become dangerous due to snow, ice, freezing rain or sleet.
Unfortunately, hazardous winter weather often causes serious car accidents. Nearly half a million car crashes and more than 2,000 deaths occur each year due to weather-related causes in winter, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
That’s why it’s critical that drivers know how to stay safe on the road and take steps to avoid a winter car accident. Some of these steps should be taken before drivers hit the road. Other advice applies to staying safe on the road, including long-distance winter trips.
In addition, drivers should know their rights if they’ve been injured in a crash caused by another driver. Otherwise, their accident claim might not get the attention it rightfully deserves. And injury victims could end up having to pay for their accident-related expenses, even if another driver was at fault.
Common causes of winter driving accidents
Car accidents often occur in winter because one driver was doing something they should not have been doing on the road. Some of these negligent actions might seem minor. But when you add snow and ice to the mix, the consequences can be devastating.
Common causes of weather-related winter car accidents include:
- Speeding drivers going too fast on snow- or ice-covered roads.
- Distracted drivers not paying attention behind the wheel, including drivers texting or looking up directions while driving.
- Drivers who don’t clear their windshield and can’t see the road due to snow or ice.
- Drivers who don’t leave enough room between their vehicle and cars in front, resulting in a rear-end accident.
- Head-on collisions and intersection accidents caused by drivers who don’t obey the rules of the road, including running a red light, illegally passing a snowplow and other reckless behaviors.
Drivers can't control the weather, but they can control how they respond to it. This is why it’s important to drive defensively and to be prepared for hazardous winter weather.
How to avoid a winter car accident
To stay safe on the road in winter, the key is to be prepared. Our advice falls into three categories:
- Safety tips before you drive
- Tips for staying safe on the road
- Long-distance winter driving tips
You live and drive in Maine. You know how treacherous roads here can be during winter. Before you drive anywhere during a snow or ice storm, consider whether you have to make the trip. If it can wait, you might want to stay off the road until it’s safe to drive. And if another driver crashes into your car, make sure you fully understand your rights. Make sure you talk to an experienced Maine car accident attorney right away.
Winter Tips – before you drive
Before you drive in snow and ice, make sure you and your vehicle are winter ready. Some safety tips include:
- Pack a winter weather emergency kit – You should have blankets, a flashlight, food, water, a windshield scraper, and extra windshield washer fluid. You might also want to pack a small shovel, cellphone charger, and first aid kit. These items can be a lifesaver during hazardous winter weather.
- Have your tires checked – Make sure your tires have enough tread to handle snow or ice. Make sure there's enough air, too.
- Consider buying snow tires – Many drivers in Maine have a second set of tires specifically for hazardous winter weather.
- Check your brakes – Ask your mechanic to check your vehicle’s brakes. Defective brakes can be a common cause of winter driving accidents. You need to be able to slow down and stop safely anytime on snow or ice.
- Check your wiper blades – Make sure your wiper blades work. You can also buy winter wiper blades built for more hazardous weather.
- Get winter washer fluid – De-icer washer fluid doesn’t freeze like normal windshield washer fluid. This can be a lifesaver when driving in a snow or ice storm.
- Fill your gas tank – Don’t let your gas tank get near empty in winter. Make sure you have at least half a tank of gas in case you get trapped.
- Check your wheel wells – Before you hit the road, check your wheel wells and make sure there’s no snow or ice buildup inside them. All that snow and ice can make it nearly impossible to control your car on the road.
Winter Tips – on the road
You’re on the road and it’s snowing, sleeting, or hazardous in some other way. What can you do to stay safe?
- Slow down – One of the best ways to stay safe on the road in winter weather is to drive slower. This gives you more time to react to snow, ice, and other, often reckless drivers.
- Flashers on – If you’re driving below the speed limit, put on your flashers so other drivers have a heads up.
- Leave extra room – If there are other cars on the road, leave enough room. Don’t tailgate or follow other cars too closely.
- Gradually slow down or speed up – Don’t slam on your brakes or step on the gas pedal on ice or snow. Just touch your brakes or slowly accelerate. Otherwise, your vehicle might spin out of control into another car.
- Turn off cruise control – While it might be more comfortable on the highway, cruise control during a snowstorm can be hazardous. You need to be able to react in an instant to unpredictable weather conditions.
Remember to stay alert and be prepared for the unexpected. Drive defensively and drive smart.
Winter Tips – long-distance trips
If you’re taking a longer road trip in Maine during winter, don’t leave home without preparing for hazardous winter weather. Such steps before and during your trip may include:
- Notify someone – Before you start your trip, tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to arrive. This way, someone will know something might be wrong if you don’t arrive at your destination on time.
- Check the forecast – Before you leave, check the weather forecast for your route and your destination. If there are extreme winter weather advisories, wait until it’s safe to drive.
- Stay with your vehicle – Blizzards and other winter storms can happen fast in Maine. Suddenly, you might be stranded far from home. When this happens, don’t leave your car. Stay in your vehicle, turn on your flashers and make sure you’re parked somewhere where other vehicles won’t crash into you. And if you do keep the engine running, make sure there’s no snow in your tailpipe and crack a window an inch or so to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
Why should I hire a lawyer?
Winter car accidents happen. When they do, it’s just as important to be prepared legally as you were when preparing to drive in winter. This is why it’s critical that you talk to an attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your legal rights.
Maine has a fault-based insurance system. This means the at-fault driver’s insurance company must pay for your accident-related expenses. But actually getting the money you rightfully deserve can be difficult. Insurance companies often do everything they can to deny accident claims.
Our Portland car accident lawyers at Jabar LaLiberty, LLC know how to handle winter accident claims. We know what evidence matters and how to build a strong legal case. That’s why we have such a strong track record of success. Discover what we can do for you. Contact us and schedule a free consultation with a Maine car accident attorney who will stand up for your rights. Call (207) 873-0781 or schedule an appointment online. We have two offices conveniently located in Portland and Waterville, Maine.