Houston Drivers Failed at Driving on Icy Road Conditions
February 9th, 2018
Most Houston-area drivers aren’t accustomed to snow and ice on the roads. Unlike most northern communities, cities that rarely get snow fall don’t have equipment and supplies at the ready. This is why it’s no surprise that when the area was faced with freezing rain, sleet, and snow. In January, the Houston Police Department reported more than 300 car and truck accidents in a 9-hour period when driving on icy road conditions.
Though the treacherous weather clearly played a role in those accidents, many of those accidents could have been avoided by adapting to weather conditions. Unfortunately, many drivers respond to dangerous and unfamiliar conditions in ways that actually increase the danger. Some examples include:
- Driving too fast for conditions
- Choosing untreated side roads to avoid higher-traffic, higher-speed roadways
- Making dangerous movements, such as darting across traffic to get to an exit
- Making illegal movements, such as making a U-turn to avoid upcoming hazards
Driving Too Fast for Conditions
One of the most significant mistakes drivers make in dangerous weather conditions is driving too fast for conditions. When it rains, snows, or the ground is icy, many drivers are anxious, and are eager to get off the road. At a time when slowing down is critical, some speed up. Others simply fail to adapt their speeds to suit the environment.
Houston Police Department Chief Art Acevedo told the press that he and other officers had observed unsafe driving during the storm, including drivers passing police cars that were traveling at 35 miles per hour with their lights on in an attempt to slow down traffic.
When roads are slippery, it is critical that drivers reduce speed, increase the distance between cars, and avoid abrupt braking or acceleration. These safety measures don’t just apply to the rare snowstorm or icy road. Many of these safety measures are just as important in the rain.
Safe Driving on Icy Roads
When driving in severe weather conditions, it’s best to avoid driving. If you must drive, or if weather conditions are less-than-perfect but not treacherous, these tips can help you avoid car accidents:
- Slow down—remember that you may slide unexpectedly, and that stopping may take more time and distance than usual
- Increase the distance between you and the car in front of you—stopping your vehicle on a slippery road can take three times as long as under normal conditions so those typical guides like the “three second rule” will not provide you with a safe stopping distance
- Resist the urge to slam on the brakes—take your foot off the gas to begin slowing down, and if you don’t have anti-lock brakes, pump the brakes
- In snow and ice, follow the crowd—well-worn roadways are typically safer than those with fresh snow and ice, and sticking to trails worn by other vehicles reduces the likelihood of unexpected ice patches
- In colder weather, be especially careful on bridges and overpasses—elevated surfaces may be icy even when other roadways are not
Texas Unsafe Speed Accidents
In 2016, “unsafe speed” was listed as a contributing factor in more than 23,000 Texas motor vehicle accidents—about 10 times as many as were attributable to actually exceeding the posted speed limit. Actual speeding was a factor in 263 fatal accidents in 2016. The Texas Department of Transportation (DOT) defines “unsafe speed” as:
“When an operator fails to drive at an appropriate reduced speed that is reasonable and prudent under existing circumstances with regard to traffic, including pedestrians, weather or roadway conditions.”
In the same year, driving too fast for conditions/unsafe speed contributed to more than 400 fatal crashes in Texas, and nearly 1,400 that resulted in incapacitating injury to at least one person.
Driving on Icy Roads Too Fast is Negligent
A driver who negligently causes a motor vehicle accident may be legally responsible for the damages caused by his or her negligence. If you’ve been injured in a car accident or a family member has been killed by a driver who was operating at an unsafe speed, you may be entitled to compensation. To learn more, schedule a free consultation with one of the experienced car accident lawyers at Simmons and Fletcher, P.C.
Paul Cannon has practiced personal injury trial law since 1995. He is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law (2005). He has earned recognition as a Super Lawyer by Thompson Reuters in 2017 & 2018, and as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers Association in 2017. He is a Shareholder, trial lawyer and online marketing manager at Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. His legal writings have been published by the Texas Bar Journal, Business.com, Lawyer.com HG Legal Resources, Lawfirms.com, and others. He has been asked to give education talks and media interviews on dog bite law.