Winter weather presents its share of driving challenges. Often, driving can feel more like skating, albeit behind the wheel of a vehicle that weighs thousands of pounds. Given these challenges, does winter weather reduce liability for accidents?
Drivers owe one another a duty of care
When you get behind the wheel, you owe other vehicles and pedestrians a duty of care. This is legalese for paying attention. It’s expected that you will obey traffic signals and yield to those who have the right of way. When another driver travels well above the speed limit or views stop signs as optional, they violate this duty. If an accident happens, they may be negligent and held liable for their reckless actions.
But what if a driver is obeying the speed limit in the middle of a snow or ice storm, is unable to stop in time, and crashes into another vehicle or pedestrian? As long as they were obeying the speed limit, it’s not their fault, right?
The duty of care is not static. It may change depending on weather conditions. You should always be adjusting your driving habits in light of the weather. For the most part, speed limits are set for dry, clear conditions. Traveling at 65 mph when the roads are icy and you can’t see more than 100 feet ahead of you isn’t wise. In fact, it would probably be considered negligent if you caused an accident. Other precautions drivers should take in less than ideal driving conditions include:
- Using windshield wipers
- Turning on their headlights
- Using the proper tires for the season and road conditions
- Leaving plenty of distance between vehicles
It’s possible for a storm to come out of nowhere, providing you with no time to adjust, resulting in an accident. However, in general, a failure to take adequate precautions could be a significant factor in determining liability in a car accident case.