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As winter tightens its grip and the roads become icy and slick, accidents are bound to happen.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 24 percent of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy, or icy pavement each year, while 15 percent happen during snowfall or sleet. Over 1,300 people are killed and more than 116,000 injured in vehicle crashes on these roads annually.

Snow and ice reduce pavement friction, which makes it harder to control a vehicle. Heavy snow and sleet also lower visibility.

Still, drivers are responsible for their actions. If someone runs into you from behind, even if the conditions are dicey, they may still be liable for the damages.

Drivers are Expected to Drive Safely Even in Winter Conditions

No matter how bad the weather is, drivers still have the responsibility to drive safely. Those who don’t believe they can drive safely in certain conditions are expected not to drive in them, but to wait until the weather has passed.

That means if someone hits you from behind, even if the weather is bad, that person can still be held liable for the damages. Yes, the road may have been icy, and the driver may have found it difficult to stop in time. But drivers still have the responsibility to drive safely.

When driving in difficult conditions, drivers are expected to lower their speeds and allow more space between vehicles to accommodate longer braking times and slick roads. They’re also expected to accelerate and decelerate more gradually, take turns slowly, and avoid using cruise control.

Drivers who fail to take these precautions and then end up hitting someone else from behind may be liable. That means their insurance will have to pay the damages.

Some Exceptions to the Rule

There are some exceptions to the rule that may apply depending on the accident.

In some cases, the driver of the lead car may be found at least partially liable if:

  • the lead car was reversing at the time of the accident
  • the lead car cut off the rear car when changing lanes, merging into traffic, or turning
  • the lead car lacked functional brake lights to signal that it was stopping or slowing down
  • the lead car was driving recklessly and slammed on the brakes before the accident

If you were the one who hit another car during difficult road conditions, you may feel that it’s not fair to pin the blame on you. But when you get behind the wheel, you are responsible for driving your car safely, no matter the conditions.

How to Drive Safely on Slick Roads

To stay as safe as possible during the winter, remember these safe-driving tips:

  • Avoid driving in the early morning and late at night if you can—this is when you’re most likely to encounter ice on the roads.
  • Be extra careful when driving on bridges. They are more easily cooled by air passing underneath and are more prone to freezing.
  • If you find yourself sliding, try not to panic. Go easy on the brakes and steering wheel to avoid hurting yourself or others.
  • Slow down. This one action can prevent a lot of accidents.
  • Increase following distance. If you hit black ice, it can take about nine times the usual distance to stop as it would on a dry road.
  • Maintain the condition of your tires.

Avoid using cruise control. If you have it on and you start sliding, it’s much more dangerous than if you don’t.

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