• Strong Law

Don't Let Frosty Roads Freeze Your Holiday Plans

Travelers this holiday season should be careful while driving on icy roads. As millions of people get ready to visit friends and relatives for the holidays, travelers need to be prepared for poor driving conditions and distracted drivers.

Who's Traveling this Year?

AAA estimates that 47.8 million people traveled by car for Thanksgiving in 2020. Around 84 million people, traveled for Christmas. The number of travelers was down from previous years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, experts predict the number of drivers will be higher again this year. As the latest pandemic surge recedes, people are more likely to travel to see family and friends.

Although some people will likely fly, most people traveling for Thanksgiving and Christmas will be driving. Road trips have traditionally been the most popular way to travel during the holidays, and recent, widespread flight delays and cancelations have made travelers wary of trusting their holiday plans to the airlines. Further, some people say they are still uncomfortable flying during a pandemic.

What Makes Icy Road Conditions so Dangerous?

Christmas and Thanksgiving, a dangerous time for drivers, is especially deadly in the North East. Although record numbers of drivers pour onto the highways all over the country, locations such as upstate New York and Chicago tend to see more accidents because of the potential for icy conditions.

Icy conditions occur when there is light winter precipitation, such as snow and freezing rain. Although freezing rain and icy conditions are bad enough, they are even more dangerous when visibility is low. If drivers can't see the ice, they are more likely to skid, possibly colliding with other vehicles or running off the road. Further, if the ice is less visible, drivers are unlikely to adjust their driving to account for the poor driving conditions. During the holidays, an increased number of drivers, increased speed, and lowered awareness can combine with icy conditions to result in serious accidents.

How Can Drivers Be More Aware of Icy Conditions?

Although icy road conditions can be hard to detect, there are several things drivers can look for to be aware of icy conditions. Drivers should:

  • Avoid driving at night or in the early morning. The temperature drops at night and doesn't immediately heat up when the sun rises. Ice is more likely to form on the roads at night and is harder to see in the dark.

  • Avoid using the car thermometer to determine if ice is likely. There may be ice on the road even when the thermometer indicates that the temperature is above freezing. The air temperature rises faster than the road temperature. Ice can remain on the road even after the air has heated beyond freezing. Drivers should look for signs of ice elsewhere, such as ice on the windshield wipers, side view mirrors, trees, and street signs.

  • Be vigilant on bridges, overpasses, and ramps. Bridges, overpasses, and ramps are the first areas to freeze and the last to thaw. Drivers should be aware that there may be ice on bridges even when ice has disappeared everywhere else.

  • Be alert when changing elevations. Drivers should be aware that ice is more likely at higher elevations. Further, areas that remain shady all day may have ice even when other areas have thawed.

  • Use the defrost. Drivers should blast their defrost as soon as their windshields begin to frost over. Drivers need to keep their windshields clear to increase visibility.

How Can Drivers Keep Safe When Driving on Icy Roads?

When driving on icy roads is unavoidable, drivers can follow a few driving tips to keep themselves and other drivers safe. Drivers should:

  • Slow down. Drivers are less likely to lose control on ice the slower they are going.

  • Brake slowly. Drivers should avoid hard braking while driving on ice. Abrupt or hard braking can cause a car to skid. In the case of a skid, the driver should pump the brakes gently to gain traction and bring the car to a stop.

  • Increase follow distance. In icy conditions, drivers should increase the distance between cars. Ice on the road makes it more difficult to stop meaning drivers should increase the distance between cars to avoid collisions.

What if the Icy Roads Cause an Accident?

Even when drivers are careful, accidents might still happen in icy conditions. However, icy conditions do not absolve drivers from operating their vehicles with a reasonable level of care. If a driver causes an accident on icy roads because he or she fails to observe appropriate safety measures, the driver can be held liable for the damages caused by the accident. A personal injury lawyer may be able to help accident victims recover for injuries caused by a reckless driver.

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