If you are involved in a car accident due to bad weather, what does the law say about who is at fault? That is a common question. In fact, there are a lot of common misconceptions about who, if anyone, is at fault and responsible. For example, you are involved in a car wreck during icy conditions. Let’s explore this type of car accident and gain understanding of what the law states.
As we welcome winter in the Upstate of South Carolina, we can expect bitter cold temperatures, snow, and ice. And the first rule of driving in snow and ice is: Don’t. That’s right! Do not drive in snow and ice. However, we know that people still have to work and go places. So, when a person has to drive in snow and ice, what does the law require of the average driver?
Rules of the Road in Bad Weather
A driver is required to use caution and to consider the conditions “then and there existing” while operating a motor vehicle. A driver is also required to keep his car under control at all times. Obviously, driving a car in snow and ice requires a driver to follow some special rules. Firstly, the driver is to operate the car at a slow rate of speed. Operating at a slow speed allows for the driver to maintain control over the vehicle. Also, driving a car at a lower rate of speed allows for a shorter stopping distance. This is is crucial while driving in bad weather conditions.
Secondly, to avoid a car accident due to bad weather, leave plenty of distance between your vehicle and other vehicles. Arguably, by leaving plenty of distance between vehicles this will allow greater time to stop, thus avoiding a collision altogether. In bad weather, drivers should leave 8-10 seconds in following distance compared to the normal 3-4 seconds of stopping distance.
A third rule of driving in bad weather conditions is to follow all directions of police or highway patrol who may be directing traffic. Upon approaching an intersection that is under control of law enforcement, slow the speed of your vehicle to 5 mph. At that speed, your vehicle should be able to come to a complete stop. Thus, avoid hitting or striking a law enforcement officer directing traffic in the event of a light outage.
A fourth rule is to accelerate or decelerate very, very slowly so as not to cause your tires to spin. Once the tires begin to spin, it is very difficult to maintain vehicle control.
Keep Moving to Avoid a Car Accident Due to Bad Weather
Lastly, keep moving when possible – avoid stopping if you can. Approach an intersection at a very slow speed and hopefully the light will change before you have to stop. Keeping forward inertia is important and avoids tire spinning upon re-starting movement. Also, if possible avoid stopping while going up a hill. Again, keeping forward inertia going up a hill will prevent slippage that comes with stopping. It is very difficult to re-start forward movement going up a hill. Thus, a car can start a backwards slide that causes loss of control.
Here are some additional tip for driving in snowy icy conditions from AAA http://exchange.aaa.com/safety/driving-advice/winter-driving-tips/#.Wk0_4FWnGM8
Who is Liable?
Now, to answer the question, who is liable in a car accident due to bad weather? The law requires drivers to operate a car in a careful, cautious, prudent manner in the conditions then and there existing. Thus, when in snow and ice, or other bad weather, a driver must use extreme care and caution to avoid causing an accident. If a driver is not careful and not cautious and causes an accident, in any conditions, the driver is at fault. Sometimes, a person might claim that the snow and ice is considered an “Act of God” and thus there is no liability for the driver that causes an accident. However, for the “Act of God” defense to apply, the “Act of God” must be the only or sole cause of the accident. That is a rare and probably non-existent situation.
A driver who chooses to go out in the snow and causes an accident by driving too fast for the conditions or not being careful is going to be legally liable for the injuries caused by the driver failing to drive in a careful manner. In conclusion, a driver has a duty to keep his car under control at all times, whether in snow or ice or otherwise.
Thank you for visiting this blog and if you have any questions after being hit by another driver in bad weather do not hesitate to reach out to us for a free legal consultation. Our office is experienced in handling these and other car accident cases.