Snow and ice can make even the simplest commute challenging and dangerous. Slick roads increase the chance of an accident. Even drivers who have a lifetime of experience operating in Pennsylvania’s winter conditions still make mistakes and cause accidents. Just because the weather played a factor in an accident does not mean that the driver who causes an accident is not at fault.
The Law Offices of Joel J. Kofsky has helped thousands of Pennsylvanians win car accident cases where they were injured by another driver losing control. Pennsylvania has laws in place that are intended to protect the rights of injured drivers, but often, insurance companies will use these laws to reduce the liability they hold for an at-fault accident.
Driver’s Responsibilities in Ice and Snow
Winter weather conditions often leave Philadelphia’s roads covered in snow and patches of ice. For drivers, these conditions present special challenges. Steering, braking, and accelerating all become more difficult and unpredictable in snow and ice. Drivers frequently lose control and crash when they encounter ice and snow on Pennsylvania’s roads.
There are no special laws related to driving in ice and snow that are different from other weather conditions. Drivers are responsible for making sure they maintain control of the vehicle at all times. If a driver does lose control on ice or snow and hit another vehicle, they are liable for the damages. Ice and snow on the road do not excuse drivers from failing to stay in control, even when the conditions are a significant factor in the crash.
Pennsylvania law requires that drivers clear their windshield and windows of ice and snow, but no law currently exists to penalize drivers for failing to clear ice and snow from the hood, roof, or trunk of their car unless the accumulated snow and ice fall off and seriously injure or kill someone. Christine’s Law, a law that is currently before the legislature of Pennsylvania, could create a violation for failing to remove snow and ice from your vehicle’s surfaces.
Ice and Snow Accident Numbers
The Federal Highway Administration reports that an average of 116,800 injuries happen annually due to crashes that occur when roads are icy, slushy, or covered in snow. About 1,300 deaths happen annually in these conditions. An additional 900 people on average are killed during an active storm each year.
The American Automobile Association compiled data for five years between 2009 and 2014 on crashes related to adverse conditions. The vast majority of crashes happen on clear, sunny days across the nation. It is theorized this is due to more drivers on the road and fewer drivers exercising caution. The study divided the US into four areas, Northeast, South, West, and Midwest. Only the Midwest states saw higher numbers of winter ice and snow-related crashes and fatalities than the Northeast. AAA states that about 40 percent of the annual weather-related crashes in the Northeast happen in ice and snow.
In the AAA study, 17 percent of all motor vehicle accident injuries and 13.8 percent of deaths happened on wet, snowy, or icy roads in the Northeast. The vast majority of accidents happen between 9pm and 10am, when weather conditions can contribute to reduced visibility and an increased likelihood of driver error.
Reducing accidents during winter weather events requires that roads be cleared of snow and ice as soon as possible, but also demands that drivers change their driving style and make sure the vehicle is adequately prepared for winter weather. Drivers should ensure they have good tires with plenty of tread life before winter weather strikes. Tire pressure should be regularly checked. The temperature changes between driving and having remained parked can cause the air pressure in your tires to fluctuate significantly. Always check your tire pressure when your tires are warmed up.
Accidents in Ice and Snow
The majority of car accidents that happen during winter weather occur because of driver error. Drivers that fail to slow down enough frequently cause accidents when they lose control and slide into other cars or pedestrians. When driving in snow or icy conditions, you should slow down a lot. NHTSA recommends reducing freeway speeds to no more than 40 miles per hour in snow and by 15 to 40 percent of the posted speed limit on non-highway roads. Roads on hills or that cross bridges are the most dangerous in slippery conditions.
Poor visibility is often attributed to car accidents in icy and snowy weather. Visibility can drop to zero during a storm, and even hours after a snowfall, ice and water spray from vehicles can significantly reduce a driver’s ability to see ahead. When a driver is travelling too fast and does not see an obstacle -like another car, a plow, or a snowdrift- they do not have the time to make a safe maneuver, and often crash causing injuries and death.
Improper vehicle equipment leads to many accidents in winter. The biggest defective equipment problem for drivers in winter is usually the condition of their tires. Tire tread rapidly loses its ability to hold the vehicle to the road as the tread is worn. It is a good idea to get your tires checked by a tire shop every fall before the winter storms. When tires are replaced in pairs, new tires should always be put on the rear axle. This allows for better control, braking, and acceleration. Worn windshield wipers, bad brakes, and defective vehicle control systems also contribute to accidents in the ice and snow.
On Christmas Day, 2005, Christine Lambert was driving in Carbon County when a sheet of ice detached from a truck travelling in the opposite direction. The sheet of ice impacted the windshield of Lambert’s car, killing her. Efforts to enact stronger laws to protect drivers from ice and snow dislodging from moving vehicles have so far fallen short. The current bill, Senate Bill 114 by Senator Lisa Boscala was passed out of the Senate on October 21, 2019 and is currently waiting to be heard in the House of Representatives Transportation Committee. Should the bill pass, it will add an infraction available to local law enforcement and state troopers to pull over and cite drivers who fail to clear snow and ice accumulations from their vehicle. Officers will have discretion to determine if the accumulated snow and ice pose a threat.
There are no concrete numbers of the people who are injured each year due to ice and snow coming from moving vehicles. Similarly, there are no estimates of the fiscal impact to drivers who experience broken windows and windshields and other damage to their cars and trucks because of ice and snow flying off moving cars.
Currently in Pennsylvania, you can be charged with an infraction for allowing snow and ice to seriously injure or kill someone. Fines begin at $200 and top out at $1,000. Additionally, drivers that do not clear snow and cause an injury open themselves to the likelihood of a personal injury lawsuit.
How We Can Help
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident that was not your fault, the Law Offices of Joel J. Kofsky want to talk to you. We will help ensure your case is filed correctly by identifying all possible responsible parties and filing the correct documents on time. Statutes of limitations exist for filing personal injury claims. Our accident lawyers will get you the medical care and financial help you will need to recover from your injuries while handling the stressful aspects of making sure your case is handled correctly. Our staff and attorneys will keep the insurance companies from harassing you to settle your claim for less than what you need to make it right.
The Law Offices of Joel J. Kofsky provides a risk-free consultation to discuss the facts of your case. This consultation is an opportunity for you to see how the best accidental injury lawyers in Philadelphia will win your case. When you are represented by us, you will have our full support on your side from the first call to long after we win your case.