With the winter weather upon us in Wisconsin, it seems to be as good a time as ever to remind drivers of some basic rules to keep in mind while navigating the wintery roadways. First and foremost, slow down. Our vehicles do not handle nearly as well in snow and icy conditions as they do on a dry road surface. Remember that speed limits are the maximum speed that a car should be driven in ideal conditions. Winter weather creates less than ideal road conditions, and speed should be reduced accordingly to maintain control of the vehicle.
Give yourself extra time and distance to stop since the tread on tires does not grip the road as effectively in winter conditions. Maintaining a safe following distance means something completely different in winter than it does the rest of the year. Motorists must be cognizant of the fact that slippery conditions exist more often in the winter due to snow and ice and give themselves more space between themselves and the vehicle in front of them, particularly in case that vehicle slows or stops suddenly. In the event that your vehicle begins to slide, do not slam on the brakes. Instead, pump your brakes to give your tires a chance to regain traction. If your vehicle begins to fishtail, it is recommended that you turn your wheel in the direction that the car is sliding and do not press the brake. This should allow the vehicle to correct itself without spinning out.
Visibility is often diminished in the winter months. Visibility can be reduced with precipitation, or when the slow is falling. Visibility may also be reduced based upon our own vehicles and whether or not they have been adequately cleared of snow and ice. This type of visibility, unlike the weather-related visibility, is something we, as drivers, have complete control over. It is not safe to drive a vehicle that has not snow or ice covering any parts of the windows or headlights. Always keep a snow brush and ice scraper in your vehicle during the winter months.
Oftentimes this visibility issue occurs when a vehicle has been parked outside during a snow fall or ice freezes to a vehicle’s windows overnight. Many people will clear a small section of the windshield, just large enough for themselves to see through, in an effort to save time or avoid standing in the cold temperatures to fully clear their vehicle. They will then proceed to drive with their defrost blaring hoping that the rest will melt or otherwise disappear quickly as they drive. This is obviously not safe.
In Wisconsin, drivers can be ticketed for operating a vehicle without all of the windows cleared of snow and ice. While not included in the law regarding snow on windows, officers also want to see hoods and roofs of vehicles void of snow accumulations prior to driving. Once the vehicle begins to move, a safety hazard is created as that snow can either fly up into the air or slide down from the roof obstructing the view of not only that particular driver, but potentially drivers in the vehicles behind them as well. All drivers should make sure to clear their entire vehicle before driving. The fine for driving with snow on the windows of a vehicle is $175. The driver will likely also be forced to clear the entire car before being allowed back on the roadway. Avoid the hassle, and get in the habit of clearing your vehicle completely of snow and ice accumulations before hitting the road.
It is also highly recommended that motorists adequately prepare their vehicles for winter driving conditions. A large part of preparing a vehicle to safely traverse Wisconsin roadways in winter is equipping them with winter tires. Winter tires are designed to grip the roadways more effectively in colder temperatures thus making winter driving much easier and safer. While it may sound absurd, insurance companies have taken the position that drivers can be liable for crashes caused by “inadequate tires.” Take responsibility and make sure your vehicle is appropriately prepared for winter conditions so that you do not cause an accident and injure yourself and others.
It is especially important in winter that drivers keep their vehicles stocked with items to help in the event that the car breaks down or gets stuck in the snow. A shovel and rock salt should be kept in the trunk at all times. If the vehicle slides off of the road and into a ditch, these items can help the driver get the vehicle out by shovelling around the tires and pouring salt down to give the tires some traction. A blanket and an extra set of winter hats and gloves should also be placed in the vehicle to keep the occupants warm in case of a breakdown. Emergency flares or reflectors should be a priority as well because they can be put out to warn passing vehicles of a disabled vehicle on the side of the road. A rope or chain comes in handy if the vehicle needs to be towed out of a ditch. Jumper cables, which should be kept in the vehicle year round, are also especially important in winter in the event of a dead battery. A flashlight is also a necessity as it gets darker much earlier in winter, so the chances of being on the side of the road in the dark is much greater than at other times during the year.
It is not uncommon for the number of car crashes to increase during the winter months, especially around the first few snowfalls as drivers are getting used to driving in slippery conditions again. Therefore, it is especially important for Wisconsin drivers to keep these winter driving tips in mind as they venture out into the snowy conditions. If you or someone you know has been injured in a weather-related crash due to the negligence of another driver, the team at Groth Law Firm may be able to help them recover for their injuries and other expenses associated with the crash. Call the Groth Law Firm today at (414) 375-2030.