The sheer number of car accidents in Michigan this week should be a reminder to us all that we need to exercise great caution when driving in the winter
Throughout this past week, Michigan has been hammered with ice, snow, and dangerously low temperatures. Winter has certainly returned to our state. Unfortunately, with the weather being as hazardous as it’s been, we have heard countless reports of weather-related auto accidents. In fact, if you’ve not heard by now, today there was a massive, 100+ vehicle pileup on I-94 by Battle Creek, which included 50 semi-trucks. This incident has affected I-94 in both directions. There are also reports of another significant, multi-vehicle pileup on US-23 south of Ann Arbor.
Car and semi-truck accidents, in ideal weather and road conditions, may present their own complications for various reasons when it comes to determining how an accident happened and gathering and preserving evidence about the collision. Imagine what must happen when there’s ice and/or snow covering the roadway? Or, when an accident happens in the midst of whiteout and blizzard conditions during a snowstorm, which may have happened during these pileups today? When it comes down to it, in those conditions it could be incredibly difficult to tell how much room vehicles are leaving when following those before them. In whiteout conditions, by the time you realize that something is stopped in front of you, it might be too late for you to avoid them. If you manage to swerve to avoid them in time, you may lose traction on the slippery road and collide into something else. If semi-trucks are involved, there might be additional considerations to take into account, as investigations into the drivers, the trucks themselves, and the conditions under which they were driving may be performed not only by law enforcement officials who respond to the scene, but by the trucking company itself.
As we mentioned before, getting the full picture of what happened may be difficult. Weather and other factors may make determining who was negligent a more time-consuming, complicated task. While Michigan is a “no-fault” state for the purposes of receiving medical benefits for the treatment of injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident (among other no-fault PIP benefits), fault may be a factor if pursuing a liability (or tort) claim against the at-fault driver for either excess economic loss or noneconomic loss damages.
What is the best way to protect yourself if you must drive in dangerous weather conditions? First of all, drive slowly and leave plenty of room between yourself and the vehicle in front of you. Even if trucks and SUVs with four wheel drive provide you with more traction than other vehicles without that capability, having that extra feature will do you very little good once you start sliding on the roadway. Something else to keep mind: it takes more time and a greater distance for larger trucks to slow down, so be mindful as you drive near them and see them approaching you. All in all, it is important for all vehicles on Michigan roads, regardless of the season, to drive in a manner that is appropriate for the weather and road conditions. It’s never a good idea to drive anywhere close to the speed limit if roads are not clear and dry.
At the end of the day, we all need to be as cautious as possible when driving during the winter, especially in inclement weather. Please travel safely!