Earlier this month Spokane had a record snowfall of 1.9 inches, which is a bit early for some people. Spokane accident lawyers often see increases in the numbers of injuries reported when we experience winter weather, so these early snowstorms may be a sign of things to come. This early November snowfall led to 80 automobile collisions and a good number of injuries. As one Highway Patrol Officer told the Spokesman-Review, the first big snowfall often “catches everyone unaware” and “folks just need to slow down.” That is good advice, indeed. As the season continues, we are only going to see more snow-related accidents. With this in mind, here are three simple tips for staying safe and avoiding winter accidents in Spokane this year.
Tip #1: Slow Down
As the officer above so accurately explained, just slow down. Most winter accidents occur because vehicles hit a patch of heavy snow or ice and lose traction. When this happens, there is little the driver can do to control the direction of travel. The vehicle simply hydroplanes into whatever happens to be in its path. The best way to prevent this situation is to not lose control in the first place. This starts with keeping the vehicle to a speed you can control. A slower moving vehicle is harder to hydroplane and will remain in contact with the road better than a fast moving one. Moreover, if you do happen to lose control, it is much better to hit that telephone pole going two miles per hour than 45.
Tip #2: Check Your Equipment
When most people think of winter “equipment,” they probably conjure up thoughts of snow chains, winter kits, emergency supplies, and all the other things we are told to keep in our vehicles during the winter. However, there are much more basic items we should be checking on our vehicles. For instance, have you checked your tire pressure? What about your brake pads? Windshield washer fluid? These types of simple and routine items can be the difference between a terrible accident and getting home safely.
There are a few things you should check. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has put together a terrific interactive checklist you can find HERE. Ultimately, the goal should be to look for anything that might reduce your stopping time, visibility, or traction. So look at brakes, obstructions (look at floor mats too), and wipers.
Tip #3: Know Your Comfort Zone
Comfort zones do not only apply to social settings - they also apply to vehicles. During really bad weather, try to stick to cars and areas in which you are familiar and comfortable. Here are a few things to consider specifically.
- New Cars: Do not drive a brand new vehicle in ice and heavy snow. Wait until you have driven it for a while and become accustomed to how it handles before using it in hazardous elements if possible.
- New Places: If you know you will be going somewhere new, try to do it when the weather is good and do not go exploring new areas during bad weather.
- Rentals: To the extent you are able, try to avoid driving rental vehicles, especially large moving trucks and trailers that you are not familiar with. These will only make it more difficult for you during heavy snowfall or other inclement weather.
Should you be involved in a winter collision, remain calm, contact the police, and seek medical attention first. Do not speak to anyone from the insurance company until you have spoken with a Spokane accident attorney who can fight to protect your rights.