As a personal injury attorney in Seattle, I know driving in snow and ice can be scary and dangerous. Even if Seattle does not have as much snow as other cities in Washington, snowfall is not out of the question.
Unfortunately, many of those we share the road with are poor winter drivers. Some people prefer to avoid driving in the snow and ice altogether, which is a good decision, or they think they know how to drive in it when they really don’t.
It is important to remember that just because there is snow or ice on the road doesn’t mean the rules of driving or the law take a day off. If you slide into someone because of snow or ice, then you will almost assuredly be liable for that accident, because every driver has a duty to maintain absolute control over their vehicle.
This is why at Premier Law Group we wrote some basic tips to keep you safe if you have to drive in the snowy or icy conditions.
1-Check traffic and weather reports: You can check at wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/ for alerts and road conditions before driving.
2-Reduce your speed: Even though this advice is supposed to be common sense, we still see some people trying to go over 50mph on icy or wet roads. Stay alert and leave plenty of space!
3-Increase following distance: Keep in mind wet and icy roads will dramatically increase your braking distance. Be super safe; double your normal distance between your and the other vehicle.
4-Don’t slam on your brakes: If you feel your tires start to slip, don’t panic and jam on the brakes. Instead of making your vehicle stop, since you already lost traction you will lock your wheels and make things worse. If your car starts to slip, remove your foot from the accelerator, brake lightly, hold your steering wheel, and wait until the car stop on it’s own.
5-Check your tires: Believe it or not, winter tires are not just a marketing thing. If you live in an area that gets a lot of snow, you should consider winter tires. If not, make sure your regular tires are properly inflated and have enough tread.
What is the proper level of tread?
The legal tread requirement is 2/32”, meaning you need to have more than 2/32” thickness of tread left on your tire.
For snowy or icy roads, if your tread gets down to 6/32” you should change the tires.
Check our article Preparing your vehicle for a snow storm if you want more info.
6-Be prepared: In case you get stuck, you should keep your car equipped with a blanket, flashlight, ice scraper, gloves and a bag of kitty litter or sand so you can dig out of a jam and give to your vehicle some traction.
If you are going to travel in rural areas, you can also add a bottle of water and some food.
Being prepared is unfortunately not enough to prevent accidents. It’s worth it to be aware of what you should do if you are injured in a vehicle accident.
Feel free to check our Free Guide for Washington State residents: The Truth About Washington Auto Accidents.