Protecting yourself on the road in fall and winter weather

Adverse weather contributes to more than 1 million accidents each year. It is important to drive carefully in wet, icy or foggy conditions.

Autumn weather can be deceptively mild in Illinois, until that first unexpected frost. It should come as no surprise that fall and winter weather, while beautiful, can be deadly for those on the roads. It is important for drivers to understand how to handle such road hazards as ice, fog and snow.

Adverse weather conditions present a significant danger to motorists everywhere. According to the United States Federal Highway Administration, almost 1,312,000 motor vehicle collisions occur in the U.S. each year due to challenging weather. About 6,250 people are killed and 480,000 are injured every year in weather-related accidents.

Illinois residents may remember the extremely dangerous conditions that contributed to a multi-vehicle pileup on the Eisenhower Expressway last April. According to the Chicago Tribune, ice on the road led to a crash that involved 15 vehicles. Three people were injured in the accident and one man was killed. The late-spring incident showed how it is possible for unexpected, but serious, accidents to occur during transitional seasons, when many people may not be expecting ice or snow.

Common fall and winter hazards

Many of the same weather conditions can be expected in fall. According to Esurance, drivers often face the following challenges when the weather starts to turn cold:

  • Frequent or unexpected rainfall, which can turn to freezing rain and ice at night
  • Heavy fog
  • Muddy or slushy roads, combined with slippery fallen leaves
  • Heavy winds and fallen or blown limbs and debris
  • Black ice and early snow

The same driving conditions exist during the winter, but with more frequency and intensity. One of the worst hazards that drivers face during cold weather is black ice. This is a thin sheet of extremely slippery ice, often formed at night by condensation, freezing rain or snow. Drivers may not see black ice until they are driving over it and begin sliding. When encountering black ice, drivers should ease off the gas pedal, rather than slam on the brakes. This may allow them time to regain control of their vehicle.

To reduce the chances of being injured or killed in crashes related to adverse weather, it is important for people to adjust their driving habits. In many cases, it is not safe to drive at the posted speed limit. Reducing speed and giving other vehicles plenty of room can go a long way toward keeping the roads safer for everyone.

It is not always possible to prevent an accident caused by someone else. Those who were injured by another driver's negligence or carelessness may wish to contact an experienced personal injury attorney in Wheaton to discuss possible compensation.