The winter of 2011 has been particularly brutal, with many states and cities reporting record snowfalls. The unexpected accumulations have led to problems in traffic and parking control unique to winter driving.
In winter states, homeowners and drivers must contend with snowplows that remove snow from their streets but leave it piled in front of driveways. This requires hours of backbreaking work to clear it in order to move vehicles out of their driveways or garages. However, cars parked on the streets are often required to be at least one foot from the curb. After a storm that just dumped several feet of snow, it can be extremely difficult to comply with this to allow emergency vehicles to pass.
Car accidents are frequent in snowbound areas. Drivers are faced with huge snowbanks that obscure their vision. Insurance companies are unforgiving if a driver rear-ends another vehicle or hits a parked vehicle because of the weather. However, drivers can successfully appeal rate increases provided they can adequately document the winter conditions leading to the accident.
Motorists and their vehicles have also been hurt or damaged by snow or ice flying off large trucks and onto their windshields. In such cases, it might be difficult to assess fault since that would imply that the truck driver had a duty to clear off the snow and ice from his rig because it was foreseeable that it could land on passenger vehicles and cause personal injury or property damage.
Beyond reduced visibility, snow and wet weather can cause traction problems that increase vehicle stopping time and can lead to loss of control. Strong winds can also wreak havoc at any time of the year and can blow ice and snow across highways, blocking a driver’s vision.
Many drivers are unprepared or panic during inclement weather. Some motorists drive well below a reasonable speed for the weather, endangering themselves and others by causing traffic backups. This also frustrates impatient drivers, who might attempt unsafe passing maneuvers. Other frustrated motorists drive recklessly at speeds exceeding the limit or at rates that are unreasonable due to snow, ice and other dangers. This can lead to out-of-control vehicles, skidding on slippery surfaces and longer stopping distances to avoid a collision.
Motorists need to use common sense and exercise extra caution whenever weather threatens safe driving.
Source: Boston Globe “Walls of Snow Lead to Accidents, Parking Complications,” 2/17/11