Speeding endangers everyone on the road; it killed 9,557 people in 2015 alone. We all know the frustrations of modern life and juggling a busy schedule, but speed limits are there to protect you and others on the road. When your speed is too fast for road conditions, it affects your safety as well. Bad weather, road repair, and poor lighting all contribute to poor road conditions.

Photo courtesy of the WSP

It’s been a challenging few days for drivers across the Northwest. Snow and ice-covered mountain passes and made traveling from east and west across the state of Washington particularly treacherous this weekend…if you made it through at all!

A series of 19 back-to-back crashes shut down Interstate 90 for over four hours on Saturday.

The chain reaction started with a semi-truck that lost control and slid into a guardrail while taking a curve. This happened about three miles east of Cle Elum, blocking the westbound lanes of the highway.

Photo courtesy of the WSP

This created a domino-like crash, due to the blocked roadway and icy conditions. Three semis and 16 other vehicles crashed into each other. The semi-truck driver, a Louisiana resident, was the cause for the pile-up. He was cited for driving too fast for conditions.

The Washington State Patrol stated there were only minor injuries in this chain-reaction pile-up that closed the busy freeway for so long.   https://yaktrinews.com/news/19-crashes-shut-down-i-90-westbound-for-45-hours-on-saturday/704291712

Too Fast for Icy Road Conditions

Driving too fast for road conditions is defined as traveling at a speed that is greater than is reasonable for safely driving in varying road and weather conditions. Examples of conditions where drivers may be going too fast include on wet roadways from rain, snow, or ice, reduced visibility because of fog, construction zones, curves, intersections, gravel roads, uneven roads, or in heavy traffic. Like we saw from the pile-up near Cle Elum, 23% of large truck accidents, like in the case of semi-truck and trailers, occurred because the driver was going too fast for conditions.

Safety Tips for Slippery and Icy Drives

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has 5 tips for large vehicles and drivers traveling safer in adverse weather and terrain:

  1. Reduce your driving speed in adverse road and/or weather conditions. The FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) suggests that drivers reduce their speed by at least a third on wet roads and by half on snow packed roads. When it comes to ice, everyone should be slow and extra cautious.
  2. Enter a Curve Slowly. An often forgotten directive from driver’s ed is that the posted speed limit sign on bends and curves is for passenger vehicles, not large trucks. Large trucks must brake sooner and adjust their speeds lower to manage curves due to a higher center of gravity. Braking in a curve can cause wheels to lock up and throw the truck into a skid. Ice can make a manageable curve detrimental and even deadly in the right circumstance.
  3.  Reduce your speed before entering an Exit/Entrance ramp. Rollovers are more likely to occur when drivers misjudge the sharpness of ramp curves and take them at excessive speed.
  4. Drive slower with loaded trailers. This goes back to the gravity concern for large trucks. A load can shift and lead to skidding or a rollover.
  5. Slow down in work zones. Lane closures, rough terrain, and road construction add to already hazardous conditions when it’s snowing or icy. Speed increases perception-reaction distance, braking distance, and stopping distance. https://fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/driver-safety/cmv-driving-tips-too-fast-conditions

Upredictable Weather-Related Road Conditions

When it comes to winter driving conditions, things can get scary in a hurry. Layers of white snow get packed by tires and weight, then melts into dragging slush. Cooler temperatures refreeze the slush into a crunchy surface of icy bumps and ruts. Salt and sand can add traction to the road, but can then be impervious with freezing conditions between warmer melting spells.

With colder weather preceding a winter front, a thin layer of ice may form on the road’s surface before it is later covered by snow. This makes dangerous conditions ahead of a driver not always visible. This makes traveling over bridges and passes even more dangerous in lower and freezing temperatures.

Winter weather requires all drivers to quickly assess the road and slow their speed to reflect the conditions. Many drivers are overconfident, either in their vehicle or their own ability to handle road conditions, when it comes to winter driving. That explains the incredible range of speed in traffic on the road when the flurries start.

For more information on how weather impacts road conditions and driver vulnerability, check out: https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/weather/q1_roadimpact.htm

Safety is No Accident

Speeding can endanger everyone on the road. It was the cause of 9,557 fatalities in 2015 alone. We all know the frustrations of life and want to get where we are heading as soon as possible. But speed limits are there to protect you and others on the road and should automatically be adjusted lower in inclement weather. Speed will affect how your vehicle handles and responds on varying surfaces, such as during bad weather, when a road is under repair, or in an area at night that isn’t well lit.

Simple carelessness is frequently accredited with crashes on snow and ice. That not necessarily be accurate in many weather-related crashes. What is actually more realistic, is that most drivers are often caught by surprise when they lose control of their vehicles and end up crashing. They truly weren’t aware of how icy or slick the road conditions were. All the practice in the world will not prepare an experienced driver for their vehicle sliding at freeway speeds.  When it comes to ice and freezing rain, no speeds are safe.  http://icyroadsafety.com/faq.shtml

Our Car Accident and Personal Injury Attorneys Are Here to Help

We all drive through life, even when the weather is a cold blur. With a little preparation and information ahead of time, we can still get where we need to go. Share these tips and thoughts with others, to ensure a calm and safe commute.

If you or someone you know has been injured or hurt in a winter driving accident, contact Fielding Law Group today, for a free legal consultation. When it can be shown that another motorist acted negligently, violated a traffic law, or failed in any way to drive safely, we can help you recover and receive the compensation you deserve. Remember–Don’t let an accident wreck YOU!