Seasonal weather changes and the associated challenging driving conditions are a common cause of accidents in Pittsburgh. According to the Federal Highway Administration, over one-fifth of auto accidents are weather-related. Winter can be especially hazardous, with 47 percent of weather-related crashes involving snow, fog, sleet, ice or slush. Given the serious risk of these accidents, it is essential for Pennsylvania drivers to understand how to reduce their risk of experiencing one.
Perform winter vehicle maintenance
Serious auto accidents are more likely to occur when a vehicle is not properly maintained for winter driving. Therefore, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation suggests that motorists take all of the following steps early in the season:
- Verify that the defroster, heater, headlights and wipers are functioning properly.
- Confirm that all vehicle fluids are topped off.
- Check that the tires are properly inflated and offer enough traction.
Drivers may also benefit from scheduling general inspections to ensure that their batteries and brakes are in good condition.
Employ extra caution
In inclement weather, drivers can take various steps to reduce their risk of accident involvement. Drivers should leave larger following distances, since low visibility can hide hazards and slick conditions increase stopping distance. Drivers should avoid accelerating or braking aggressively. The Iowa Department of Transportation recommends that motorists drive below posted speed limits and use their headlights to make themselves visible. Additionally, during inclement weather, motorists should always avoid driving while intoxicated, fatigued or otherwise unfit to drive.
Be careful near plows
According to the IDOT, drivers should be particularly cautions when following or passing snowplows. These vehicles often travel at top speeds of 35 mph, so drivers should decelerate as they approach. Drivers should also understand that plows have large blind spots. Snowplows also may leave their lanes to avoid road hazards or as a result of impacts with packed snow. Therefore, drivers should generally avoid passing snowplows unless there is adequate space and visibility.
Prepare for the unexpected
Drivers should be ready for vehicle trouble, accidents or other unanticipated issues. The PDOT recommends that drivers keep their vehicles outfitted with an emergency kit that is appropriately stocked for these situations. This kit should include a blanket and warm clothing, food and water, first aid necessities, flashlights, jumper cables and tools such as shovels and ice scrapers.
Drivers who experience winter driving accidents in which they are not at fault should also be ready to protect their rights. If another motorist engaged in unsafe actions, such as traveling at reckless speeds or driving impaired, that driver may be liable for the accident. Anyone who has suffered injuries in such an accident should consider consulting with an attorney about options for seeking compensation.