Winter weather has hit Virginia regularly over the last five years. Snow in January and February brings cities like Norfolk, Hampton, and Richmond to a standstill and renders roads treacherous. Although Virginia drivers are seeing more snow and ice, they remain poorly prepared for winter driving and crashes spike. By heeding winter driving safety tips, you can protect yourself from injury.
Heavy snow can be challenging for all types of vehicles. Although the best advice is to stay at home during a snowfall, some people have to be on the road. Despite the best advice, many motorists drive too fast in snowy conditions and cause accidents. The Smith Law Center helps injured drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists every year. Please contact us if you were hurt in a wreck in Virginia.
Why Winter Weather Causes Crashes
When snowstorms hit Virginia, many drivers are unable to cope with the slippery conditions. In December 2018, Virginia State Police reported 1,177 traffic crashes across the Commonwealth during and after a snowstorm. Of those, almost 400 occurred in the Richmond area.
Police responded to more than 900 incidents after snow in February 2018. Many of the accidents occurred in Hampton Roads.
Snow and ice can cause many problems. Drivers who speed or break too hard can slide in winter conditions. They may fail to see black ice and often snow freezes over when temperatures fall, creating a hazard hours or days after the initial storm.
People should drive differently when snow falls. They should also take more precautions before getting on the road. Here are some important tips.
Top Winter Driving Safety Tips in Virginia
- Make basic safety checks before you head onto the roads. Ideally, stay off the roads during snowy and icy conditions
- Check your brakes are working, your tires have enough tread, and are properly inflated
- Check your antifreeze and thermostat
- Make sure your windshield wipers are working
- Check you have adequate de-icing washer fluid
- Check the oil
- Check all of your lights are working properly
- Have a first aid kit and a warm blanket in your vehicle
- Make sure you have a fully charged cell phone before you get on the road
- Clear all snow and ice from the windows, the roof, the mirrors, and the lights before driving
- Always wear your seat belt
- Set out as early as possible. It will take longer to reach your destination in wintery conditions and you should never rush
- Start driving slowly in a low gear until you become used to driving in the snow
- Be particularly careful on bridges over overpasses where black ice is most likely to form
- Keep a safe distance of at least five seconds behind other vehicles
- Keep as far away as possible from snowplows. These large vehicles may suddenly stop. Don’t overtake them. The road in front of them is likely to be unplowed. Snowplows should be treated like emergency vehicles
- Don’t brake sharply in icy and snowy conditions. You may lose control of your vehicle
- Don’t use cruise control in snowy and icy conditions. Your car has less grip on the road when you use cruise control
- Carry a shovel and a bag of cat litter if possible. Putting litter under your wheels can give you traction if you get stuck in the snow
Drivers should find out about road and weather conditions before they head out into the snow. It’s important to know whether a thaw is imminent or more snow is expected. You should also find out which roads are impassable and amend your route accordingly.
Before beginning your road trip, check the weather forecast or call 511 to find out about road conditions. You can go to 511virginia.org.
Accidents Caused in Snow and Ice in Virginia
Drivers should change their behavior in winter conditions. You should never drive distracted. This is particularly true in snowy conditions where one glance away from the road to your cell phone can cause a skid.
You should drive defensively in wintery conditions. Keep your speed down and anticipate cars stuck in the snow and other hazards ahead of you. Be aware of reduced stopping times.
If you or a family member has been hurt by a driver who fails to adapt to winter conditions, you may have grounds to file a claim against that driver’s insurance company.
Our attorneys will conduct a detailed investigation and make a case against the driver who caused your injuries. The Smith Law Center has represented people injured and the families of the deceased for decades. Please call us today at 757.244.7000.