A Dangerous Combination: Ice Storms & Driving

truck driving on a highway through a snow storm

Just a few weeks into 2016 and the new year is already setting snowfall and temperature records up and down the eastern seaboard. Buried in Ice and Snow – NYC Comes to a Halt – Deadly Blizzard Paralyzes East Coast – these were some of the headlines covering “Storm Jonas.”

Throughout the storm, one thing authorities encouraged the public to do was to stay off the roadways. NYC and Baltimore were under travel bans to keep drivers away from city streets. The reason of course being that snow and ice-covered roads aren’t safe. Most people happily complied, staying inside and missing a few days of work. For one reason or another, other people braved the terribly inclement weather and got into their vehicles. Sadly, dozens of vehicle accidents ensued.

Driving in a blizzard or ice storm is never recommended and should be avoided whenever possible. Nonetheless, if the weather suddenly changes for the worse, you may find yourself having to drive in these conditions. This is especially so if you have an essential services job and are expected to be at work no matter the temperature or what is falling from the sky.

Ice Storms & Driving
Ice Storms & Driving

Ice Storms vs. Blizzards

An ice storm is a type of winter storm characterized by freezing rain. According to the National Weather Service, an ice storm results in at least a quarter of an inch of ice accumulation on exposed surfaces. On the other hand, a blizzard is a severe snowstorm with winds of at least 35 mph that lasts for three hours or more.

Although ice storms are more common than blizzards, they don’t get quite the same press as their more violent cousins. This is probably because they are not perceived to be as much of a danger.

The hazards of an ice storm, especially on our roadways, shouldn’t be dismissed though. This is particularly true when the storm occurs at night and temperatures are lower. Most people are sleeping, and therefore may not be aware of the storm. They then encounter the jeopardous aftermath of an ice storm upon waking and getting into their vehicles. Drivers may pay the price on the roadways by getting into a slip and slide accident.

Slip and Slide Accidents

Storm Jonas saw countless slip and slide accidents due to icy roads. As the name suggests, these accidents happen when a car loses tire traction on an icy surface and slides over it. There were five deaths in slip and slide accidents in North Carolina alone on that Friday of the storm. Authorities in Cleveland reported 60 slip and slide accidents on the Wednesday morning of Storm Jonas. These statistics of death, injury and property damage were repeated all throughout the massive area – from Maine to Georgia – affected by the storm.

Upon losing control on an icy surface, vehicles can spin out and crash into objects, such as medians, or other cars, including oncoming traffic. Crashes with objects and other vehicles represent the most obvious types of accident that can occur during a slip and slide event.

One set of slip and slide circumstances that people might not consider at first is being struck as a pedestrian by an out-of-control vehicle. If you are shoveling snow on the side of the road, or have stopped and gotten out of your car for whatever reason, there is little you can do if a vehicle suddenly spins or slides in your direction.

Our firm is familiar with these situations – in fact, we have successfully represented such cases.

Recently we secured $5 million in compensation for a man who was paralyzed from the waist down when he was struck by a tractor-trailer on the side of the road following an ice storm.

Ice Storms & Falling Trees

Another potentially deadly hazard during an ice storm is the threat of falling trees or tree branches. Freezing rain from an ice storm covers the local environment with a heavy, smooth and transparent ice coating called glaze ice. Visually this adds a dazzling, other-wordily effect to trees and other plant life.  Yet, the weight from glaze ice can be heavy enough to break off branches or even take down whole trees, posing a threat to pedestrians and drivers.

During Storm Jonas, a postal worker in Georgia was killed when a tree fell onto his vehicle. It is unclear based on reports why the tree came down, but glaze ice could very well have been the culprit.

Drive Safely

Above all else, our concern is for you and your family’s safety while traveling on the roadways during an ice storm – or under sunny skies for that matter. Fried Goldberg is a personal injury law firm that specializes in vehicular accidents. We hope that you will not need our services, but if you are injured in an auto accident, please consider having your case represented by an experienced car accident attorney. This will help ensure you get the full compensation you are due. You can contact us at any time for a free case review.

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