The December 2016 snowfall that wreaked havoc for commuters in Greater Vancouver provides an extreme example of how hazardous winter driving can be. However, snow is not the only winter hazard that increases the risk of auto collisions – in the winter, drivers must also contend with hazards such as rain, fog, and fewer daylight hours. Let’s discuss some winter driving hazards and factors that lead to an increase in road accidents during the winter months.
1. Quickly changing and deteriorating travel conditions
The weather is usually fairly consistent in the summer months, but in the winter, the weather is much more variable. Storms move in quickly and the weather can be unpredictable, so drivers must be prepared for all conditions. For example, in the winter, a sudden drop in temperature can cause ice to form, making the roads extremely hazardous.
2. Reduction in visibility due to rain, fog, or snow
Fog, rain, and snow make it more difficult for drivers to see other users of the road, which increases the risk of collision with another vehicle, cyclist, or pedestrian. As noted above, the weather can deteriorate quickly in the winter, so reduction in visibility can often be quite sudden.
3. Fewer hours of daylight
According to ICBC, most of the serious injuries and fatal motor vehicle accidents happen when it is dark out. Days are shorter in the winter (and it is often grey and overcast during the daytime in the winter). Fewer hours of daylight in the winter months make the roads more hazardous for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians alike. For example, on average in the Lower Mainland during November and December, there are more than twice as many pedestrians injured in crashes than there are in July and August.
4. Pooling water, ice, and compact snow
There is much more precipitation in the winter months, which makes for slippery road conditions. The hazard created by the increase in rain and snow in the winter is compounded by rapid shifts in temperature – when the temperature is hovering around the freezing mark, it only needs to go a few degrees up or down to produce ice, slush, or pools of water in the road.
5. Failure to adjust vehicle speed to conditions
Posted speed limits are for ideal conditions only. A major cause of accidents in the winter is the failure of drivers to adjust vehicle speed to the conditions of the road. Following distance should also be adjusted in the winter; for example, drivers should allow at least twice the normal braking distance on wet, snow-covered, or slushy roads.
6. Inexperienced winter drivers
Road accidents are more common in the winter because many drivers lack experience and confidence when it comes to winter driving. Drivers are often inexperienced with how their vehicle will handle in winter conditions and do not know how to properly react if their vehicle starts to skid or hydroplane.
7. Highway maintenance vehicles
Drivers often fail to use caution around highway maintenance vehicles, including salt and sand trucks and plows, which results in an increase in winter road accidents. Many drivers do not realize, for example, that they should never pass a highway maintenance vehicle on the right.
Speak with an experienced road accident lawyer following a winter collision
If you have been injured in a winter road accident, lawyers at any of our 13 offices throughout the Lower Mainland are able to provide you with a free initial consultation to help you discuss your claim for compensation.