The latest episode of bad weather in Virginia again illustrates how drivers in the Commonwealth are ill prepared for handling snowy and icy roads.
Virginia State Police reported more than 770 crashes during the blizzard that began on Jan. 6 until the evening of Jan. 8. Fortunately, only one fatality was reported. In Greene County, an SUV slid off a road and the driver ended up in a creek. In Caroline County, a head-on collision on icy roads left a sheriff’s deputy with serious injuries.
Between seven and 18 inches of snow fell across southeastern Virginia over the weekend. Low temperatures meant roads were ice-bound more than 24 hours after the snow stopped falling on Jan 7.
Despite warnings to stay off the roads, many Virginians got behind the wheel. A significant number came to grief. State police reported 1,234 disabled vehicles on the roads by 6 p.m. on Jan 8. As personal injury lawyers based in Hampton Roads, we have first-hand experience of how snowfall can paralyze the region and cause wrecks with injuries. Many drivers are unfamiliar with wintery conditions and fail to drive appropriately. Many local authorities are slow to clear roads, particularly residential streets.
In snow storms January and February 2016, Hampton Roads recorded the highest number of wrecks in the Commonwealth, even when the snow totals were lower than other areas. The best advice to avoid becoming a statistic is not to venture out in your car during or directly after a snow storm.
If you must travel, here are some bad weather driving tips.
- Keep Your Speed Down: You should never drive too fast for conditions, but after a snow storm it’s vital to keep your speed down. On untreated roads, it may be necessary to drive at a speed that seems unnaturally slow to remain in control of your vehicle. Aim to reduce your normal speed by 50 percent in snowy conditions. However, don’t take your foot off the gas too much. Your car needs to maintain a steady momentum to keep moving through the snow.
- Keep Your Distance: Tailgating is dangerous at the best of times. In icy and slippery conditions, it will take much longer to stop. On icy or snowy roads you should adhere to the 10-second rule. Count to 10 before you reach the same fixed point that you watched the vehicle ahead pass. It seems like a long distance but the normal rules of the road don’t apply in a snow storm.
- Know Where You Are Going: Plan your route carefully if you are heading out in bad weather. Check weather conditions and listen to the radio. Make a list of traffic hotline numbers that you can check on avoid hazardous conditions. Better still, have the apps downloaded on your phone. Virginia’s 511 service provides traffic updates.
- Pack a Winter Travel Safety Kit: You should have the essentials in your car in case you break down. Have an ice scraper and brush, a snow shovel, a tow rope, blankets, a working flashlight, a portable weather radio and a can of lock de-icer. Some drivers even pack cat litter that can be used to help gain traction if you get stuck.
- Know How To Cope With a Skid: Avoid braking hard on icy roads. Your wheels can “lock up” if you step on the brakes too hard and you can lose control. If you go into a skid, steer your car gently in the direction you want it to go and make sure not to touch your brakes. This is also known as “turning into the skid.”
- Be Seen: Make sure your windscreen wipers are working and you have screen wash. Turn on your headlights to be seen by other drivers in the snow. If you break down, use your flashers and have a warning triangle on board. Don’t get out of your car on busy highways where you may slip and be hit by another vehicle. Try to get your car into a safe place and then call AAA or the emergency services.
We hope you stayed safe during the blizzard. If you were involved in an accident caused by a reckless or a careless driver, call us at (757) 455-0077 or visit our website at www.cooperhurley.com.