Anytime you get into a vehicle there is the potential for an accident, but one of the most dangerous conditions you can encounter is an icy road. Ice can make any vehicle go out of control, and many drivers, lulled into a false sense of security because they are in a four wheel drive or SUV, drive too fast or follow much too closely in icy conditions, causing fatal accidents.
Icy roads are often accompanied by poor visibility in snow storms, doubling the danger. A whiteout can come up suddenly, wiping out visibility entirely. Even in clear weather, icy roads are dangerous, and drivers should go slow and use extreme caution.
Icy roads can be a bit of a catch-22. If you drive too slowly, you may not have enough momentum to keep going, especially if there is significant snow on the road or you are going up hill. Losing your momentum can cause you to slide off the road, into oncoming traffic, or backwards. It can also mean getting stuck in the middle of the road, blocking traffic and causing an accident.
Black ice is the deadliest form of ice, and the cause of many accidents because it takes drivers by surprise. It blends in with the road and is not visible, deceiving drivers into thinking the road is dry and clear, meaning that they drive at normal speeds – too fast for ice. Sometimes it is present only in patches, and when a driver hits a patch which they did not see, they suddenly go out of control. Other times the entire roadway is covered in it, but the drivers are not aware that they are driving on ice until they try to brake or turn, and suddenly spin or slide.
The only way to avoid black ice accidents is to anticipate it. Assume that in freezing or near freezing temperatures that the road has the potential to be icy, even when it appears to be clear. Be especially cautious after snow storms when the icy has had a chance to melt and refreeze.
If you must drive on ice, you should be in an appropriate vehicle. That means front or four wheel drive, good snow tires with adequate tread, and sometimes chains. An underpowered vehicle, one which cannot gain traction, or one which has steering, suspension, or brake problems, is an accident waiting to happen.
Laws regarding following too closely are typically worded in a way that requires drivers to maintain a greater distance when conditions are hazardous. Following too closely on icy roads is negligence. Intentionally following too closely, in order to harass or intimidate other drivers, can carry a stiff penalty and in some cases entitles victims to greater compensation in the event of an accident.
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an accident on an icy road, talk to an experienced auto accident attorney today.