Winter Driving

This true story is a common example of “distracted” driving as well as where a driver is going too fast for road conditions. While this accident occurred in winter, rural roads present hazards year round and require drivers to focus 100% on driving to maintain safety.

The accident occurred in the early afternoon in December on a gravel rural road in the Midwest. The roads were snow packed. The employee was driving a bobtail truck and the other driver, a farmhand, was driving a pickup. 

The employee was eastbound, and while checking notes in his lap, had drifted so he was traveling down the center of the road. When he looked up, he saw the farmhand in the pickup traveling westbound in its own lane. The employee driver reacted by hitting the brakes and attempting to get back into his lane, but slid out of control sideways – blocking the entire road and hitting the farmhand’s vehicle.

Both vehicles ended up going off the road.

The employee was cited for driving on the wrong side of a two-way highway.

The claimant, in his mid 50s, suffered multiple fractures and lacerations as well as a shoulder injury that required surgery leaving him unable to work for approximately 8 months.

The claimant incurred medical bills of approximately $50,000. While he was able to return to work, his injuries left him struggling with daily pain. The case settled approximately one year after the accident for around $500,000.

What went wrong?

  • Reading notes, shipping papers, map/directions, eating/drinking, adjusting dash-mounted radios are all examples of distracted driving that force us to take our eyes off the road an average of 3+ seconds and longer. Distracted driving is not confined to cell phone use.
  • Using any electronic hand-held device is against the law while driving a commercial motor vehicle.
  • Winter driving on Class 2 roads can be especially challenging due to drifting snow and the inability to know where the centerline and the roadway shoulder are at all times.
  • Ice and snow reduce the effectiveness of both braking and steering.

How to prevent these types of accidents

  • Eliminate as many distractions as possible while driving.
  • Review your route prior to leaving and then review again after each stop for the next stop, prior to getting behind the wheel.
  • When driving, learn to look farther down the road ahead of you, where you will be in the next 10-15 seconds. This can help you anticipate what’s coming up on your drive, giving you time to make quality driving decisions versus simply reacting.
  • Have an understanding of the dynamics of the vehicle you’ll be operating and how your vehicle may react in fast or emergency stops on different road surfaces and conditions.  This may help you prevent a skid and/or a jack-knife situation.

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