Safe Driving in Winter Weather

Winter weather creates rapidly changing road conditions that can be dangerous for even the most experienced driver. Being aware and cautious when driving is always a good idea, but particularly in North Carolina with our law of contributory negligence. If a driver is just 1% at fault in a wreck, under our laws they would have no right to recover for their injuries or property damage - even if the other driver is 99% at fault! Here are a few tips to help keep you safe on the roads during inclement weather:

Plan ahead. If you are traveling during the winter, check the weather conditions along your route and plan accordingly. Become familiar with possible stopping points along the way in case the weather is worse than anticipated. Make sure you have plenty of fuel and always travel with emergency materials such as extra food and water, blankets, jumper cables, a flashlight and flares or roadside markers. It is also a good idea to conserve the battery on your cell phone during travel so that you will have sufficient battery life in case of an emergency.

Slow down. It is much harder to stop and maintain adequate control when driving on slick surfaces. If roads are icy, snowy (or even just wet), driving slower than normal and allowing increased distance between your vehicle and those around you will give you the extra time you need to make corrections or react to your surroundings. Make sure you allow yourself extra time for your morning commute so you don't feel rushed. Road conditions are typically worst early in the day before the ground temperature has had time to rise.

Stay calm. If you start to feel your vehicle skidding, try to remain calm. Over-correcting often causes accidents that could be prevented by a calm and careful reaction. In most cases, if you encounter ice, the best way to react is to take your foot off of the pedals and continue to steer in the desired direction. If you must stop abruptly, apply continuous pressure if you have antilock brakes and if not, pump the brakes gently.

Every car is unique and requires different handling to ensure safe driving, especially in unfamiliar conditions such as winter weather. In any type of weather, the best way to protect yourself from injury is to wear your seat belt and ensure that all passengers are properly restrained with a seat belt or child safety seat.

Dré Fleury is the Personal Injury Practice Group Leader at Crumley Roberts. He leads a team of personal injury attorneys and case managers throughout the state who work hard to stand up for their clients. Dré lives in Charlotte with his wife, Grace, and their three children.

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