Driving too Fast is a Recipe for Disaster
It’s cold and the headlights of the car can see snow off on the side of the road. The road looks clear so the driver hits the accelerator not realizing that the road is covered with a thin layer of ice. In a few moments he’s driving at the posted speed limit. Things are fine for a few miles…until he comes across a sheet of ice in the road. That’s when his car traveling 70 mph slams into the back of the car ahead.
It’s a common occurrence in the winter months. Drivers who feel safe because the road looks safe. Instead of adjusting their driving habits for conditions, they proceed down the roads and highways as they normally would. What they don’t realize until it’s too late is that just because the road looks safe doesn’t mean that it is.
Frequently Encountered Driving Conditions in Illinois
- Fog – Fog reduces visibility and makes it more difficult to judge distance. It also makes it more difficult to determine whether an object ahead is stationary or moving.
- Ice – A thin layer of ice is all it takes to disrupt the friction between a tire and the road. This reduces friction which makes it difficult to control the vehicle. Worse still, it is difficult to see after dusk and it can be hidden beneath freshly fallen snow.
- Water – Heavy rainfall can obscure a driver’s view of the road. This can make it difficult to see other vehicles and obstructions. It can also break friction between the tires and the road which can cause a vehicle to hydroplane. Even with all weather tires, a vehicle can hydroplane with very little water present. In fact, the faster a vehicle is traveling, the easier it is for this to occur.
- Snow – Driving through heavy snow can “pull” a vehicle off course. As snow compacts within wheel wells, it can make steering difficult. The faster a vehicle is going, the easier it is for a driver to lose control.
Speed Injures & Kills
A vehicle traveling too fast for conditions can easily injure or kill. Just last week, anaccident on I-74 sent four individuals to the hospital, including two state patrol officers. A semi-truck driven by a 34-year-old man struck another vehicle as he approached an accident scene. The semi jackknifed and slid into a patrol car. The driver of the semi-truck was cited for driving too fast for conditions.
In another accident that occurred in Naperville, 18-year-old Nichole Anthony was driving through a subdivision when she lost control of her vehicle and slid into the home of David Hoffman. The Hoffman’s narrowly avoided injury and Anthony was cited by police for driving too fast for conditions as she approached the scene of an accident.
The Federal highway Administration estimates that 2,200 people are killed, and roughly 193,000 are injured because of snow and ice conditions on American roads. Each year, nearly 24% of all weather related accidents are caused because of snow and ice. This is in line with what many Chicago auto accident lawyers see every year when pursuing personal injury cases for their clients.
Reducing Accident Rates
In light snow conditions with little traffic, officials typically recommend reducing speed by 3-13%. In heavy snow with high traffic, officials will typically recommend reducing speed by up to 40%. Technology can also assist drivers as they travel in diminished road conditions. Anti-lock brakes, winter tires, and collision avoidance systems can help reduce the possibility of an accident. However, these systems do not give a driver license to drive faster than is safe for conditions. Even with these systems, drivers are responsible for adhering to advisories and reduced speed limits.
In Illinois, drivers are responsible for maintaining control of their vehicle at all times. If a driver is driving too fast for conditions, they may be issued a citation for this even if no accident or injury takes place. Drivers may also be cited for reckless driving. Of course, if an accident or injury occurs, they are also liable for the injuries and damage they cause. This is true even when advisories aren’t issued, and conditions such as black ice aren’t easily noticed.
Slippery Roads Exacerbate Injuries
The injuries that occur as the result of individuals driving too fast for conditions are the same as for other accidents. Thus, whiplash, disk fractures, broken bones, soft tissue damage, etc. are common. However, diminished road conditions involving snow, ice, and water can exacerbate and multiply injuries. This is because vehicles are more likely to be thrown about in these conditions until the forward momentum dissipates and traction is regained. Thus, individuals who are struck, or strike another vehicle, are likely to suffer compound injuries that are more costly and difficult to treat.