Avoiding winter car accidents in Michigan while driving can be tough. Frequent snowfall and near constant conditions for ice turn the state’s roads into a veritable mine field despite MDOT’s near ceaseless efforts to keep roads clear and dry. And don’t forget the thousands of drivers on the roads determined to get to work or wherever they are going regardless of weather conditions, many of whom believe they can drive just as maniacally in snow and ice as they can on dry summer roads.
The website icyroadsafety.com rates most of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula as a high risk for fatal crashes on icy roads, based on historical crash data, and the remainder as moderate risk. The Upper Peninsula, surprisingly, is rated as only a slight risk for fatal crashes on icy roads. (Possibly due to a less dense population that is more accustomed to and prepared for winter driving conditions.)
Nonetheless, there are things you can do to minimize your risk for being involved in a winter car accident in Michigan. The Detroit injury lawyers at Sachs Waldman, P.C., have assembled the following list to help you avoid a crash while driving on winter roads in Michigan. Learning to drive safely on winter roads not only minimizes your risk for a crash, but should you end up in a crash anyway, being a cautious driver can reduce your liability should another driver or passenger be injured severely enough to warrant damages not covered by your Michigan no-fault insurance.
Tip #1: Clear car completely of snow and ice.
Before you even pull out of your driveway or away from the curb, make sure all snow and ice is completely removed from the windows, roof, hood and trunk of your car. Snow and ice on windows can obstruct visibility, and snow or chunks of ice blowing off horizontal surfaces could obstruct your visibility or that of drivers behind you.
Tip #2: Slow down
Reacting to changes in road conditions, the actions of other drivers, and other hazards is far easier at lower speeds. Slower speeds also reduce risk of skidding and other control issues. Always plan for extra time to get where you’re going in the winter.
Tip #3: Expect roads to be slippery
Wind chill, shade and other factors can cause ice to form on roads even when temperatures are above freezing and icy conditions aren’t always easy to see. Expecting roads to be icy or slippery will mean you are prepared when you do come across a slippery expanse of road.
Tip #4: Put more distance between you and the car ahead
When roads are slippery, it takes longer to come to a safe stop. Put at least an extra car’s length of distance between you and the car ahead.
Tip #5: Be alert and pay attention to the road
Don’t allow yourself to “space out” while driving or be distracted by conversations, your cell phone, the radio or other potential distractions. Check your rearview and side view mirrors frequently and be aware of what traffic is doing around you.
Tip #6: Watch drivers ahead of the car in front of you
If you watch only the driver immediately in front of you, you won’t know about a hazard ahead until brake lights on that car light up. Sometimes that’s too late. Keep an eye on traffic several cars ahead so you can anticipate a need to stop or steer out of the way of an obstruction.
Tip #7: Drive defensively – anticipate the actions of other drivers
Keep an eye on the drivers around you and what they are doing. Anticipate lane changes and other actions so that you can accommodate or react to them without being surprised.
Tip # 8: Learn how to come out of a skid
Inevitably, driving on snowy or icy roads leads to skidding. Knowing how to come out of a skid can prevent a situation in which you totally lose control and crash.
To recover from a skid, stay calm, take your foot off the throttle and steer in the direction you want to go. As the car slows from lack of throttle, the tires regain traction and steer the car in the right direction. DO NOT OVERSTEER. If you only need to go a little to the left to get back on course or avoid an obstacle, don’t crank the wheel all the way to the left. This can cause you to further lose control. If you have an anti-lock brake system on your car, you can brake as you steer out of the skid. But if you don’t have ABS, braking can make the skid worse as your wheels lock up. Once your car regains traction, you can slowly accelerate.
Tip #9: Be courteous to and forgiving of other drivers
Nothing is quite as distracting as road rage. Instead of concentrating on what a jerk someone is for cutting you off, assume he simply wasn’t aware of you and didn’t intend to cut you off. This allows you to remain calm so you can continue to be aware of traffic conditions all around you rather than blinding you to a potentially dangerous situation.
These pointers will drastically reduce your chances of getting into a winter car accident in Michigan or anywhere else snow and ice dominate the roads in winter months, but they won’t eliminate the possibility altogether. There are just too many reckless drivers and other variables you can’t control. If you do end up in a winter car accident in Michigan and get injured, the personal injury firm of Sachs Waldman, P.C., will fight for you and help you obtain the insurance benefits and compensation for damages that you’re entitled to. We have nearly four decades of experience handling personal injury cases resulting from winter auto accidents in Michigan. Call our Detroit personal injury attorneys’ office at 1-800-638-6722 to schedule a free consultation.