Tips for avoiding auto accidents during wintertime driving

Drivers can lower their risk of winter weather accidents by properly preparing their vehicles, using caution near plows and adjusting their general habits.

It is not uncommon for inclement winter weather conditions to cause a sudden increase in serious car crashes in Kentucky and Ohio. Nationally, over one-fifth of auto accidents are attributable to weather conditions, and 45 percent of those involve conditions of snow, sleet, ice or slush, according to the Federal Highway Administration. This makes it imperative for motorists to know how to reduce their risk of experiencing winter weather-related accidents.

Ensure vehicle readiness

Proper vehicle maintenance can reduce the likelihood of breakdowns and other performance issues that could cause an injurious or fatal car crash. Before the winter driving season begins, motorists should check their tire treads and confirm that their headlights, wipers, brakes and battery are working. People who use summer tires should also switch to all-season or winter tires, which provide better traction and handling.

Adjust driving habits

Snowy or icy conditions can present several unique hazards. Motorists should adjust their driving to compensate for the following dangers:

· Reduced visibility. Fog and blowing snow can prevent a driver from seeing stopped traffic or other approaching obstacles. To avoid rear-end collisions, drivers should slow down and allow a larger following distance between vehicles.

· Poor traction. Drivers should use caution when driving on portions of road that tend to freeze earlier than other surfaces, such as bridges and overpasses. In conditions of rain or sleet, drivers should beware of black ice.

· Differences in vehicular handling. Drivers should understand what kind of performance they can expect from their brakes in snowy or icy conditions. In addition, drivers should know how to correct a slide based on the vehicle's drivetrain.

Drivers should also avoid becoming overconfident in their vehicles. For example, a four-wheel drive vehicle may have superior traction in inclement weather, but this does not necessarily translate to a better ability to stop. Due to their weight, some four-wheel drive vehicles may even require more stopping distance than other vehicles.

Treat snowplows cautiously

Motorists should also exercise special care when driving near snowplows. Visibility is often reduced near these vehicles, which makes slowing down and avoiding passing advisable. The blade of a snowplow, which may extend several feet past the side of the vehicle, can also present a hazard. When approaching a plow, drivers should move over as far as possible to avoid a collision.

Seek help if needed

Sadly, these measures may not prevent every accident. This is especially true when other people are traveling too fast for road conditions, driving impaired or otherwise acting recklessly. Fortunately, in these cases legal remedies might be available to accident victims. An attorney may be able to offer further advice on assessing liability after an accident and seeking appropriate compensation.