Winter driving dangers in West Virginia

Weather-related accidents cause thousands of injuries and fatalities each year. Black ice, snow, fog and rain contribute to hazardous conditions.

In West Virginia, many motorists have already taken precautions to make their vehicles safer to drive in adverse weather conditions. However, winter driving entails more than having snow tires and all-wheel drive. It is important for everyone getting behind the wheel this winter to understand that they need to adjust their driving habits when the weather is less than ideal.

The statistics surrounding weather-related accidents drive home this point. According to the United States Federal Highway Administration, 23 percent of all collisions may be attributed to weather conditions. This means almost 1,312,000 crashes every year are caused by such conditions as rain, snow, sleet, fog, ice and wind. Every year, more than 480,000 people are injured and 6,250 are killed in accidents due to the weather.

Most common weather dangers in the winter

Winter weather is known for wide fluctuations in West Virginia. Drivers may wake up one morning to fog and light frost on the ground, and the next morning may encounter icy roads and snow flurries. The following conditions can create serious driving hazards over the next few months:

• Heavy fog, rainfall or snow reducing visibility

• Slick roads due to frost, wet leaves or a mixture of rain and oil

• Glare from the sun, especially in the early mornings

• Slush or ice covering the roads

In fact, ice is one of the deadliest dangers faced by drivers in the winter, especially black ice. Black ice is responsible for countless motor vehicle collisions in colder states. This type of ice is particularly dangerous because it often appears as wet pavement, rather than the thin sheet of ice it is. Instead of looking shiny, black ice may look matte or may not be seen at all until the car is moving - and sliding - over it. Black ice tends to form overnight or in the early morning, and is often present in shaded areas and on bridges and overpasses.

One of the most effective ways to reduce the chances of getting into a weather-related accident is to drive slower than usual, especially when the roads are icy. When fog is heavy, regular headlights should be used and not the high beams, which can increase glare. Drivers should give other vehicles plenty of space to maneuver and come to a stop in poor weather. If drivers find themselves sliding on ice, it is important not to slam on the brakes, but instead to ease off the gas pedal and hold the wheel steady while regaining control of the vehicle.

Those who are injured by negligent drivers in weather-related accidents may wish to explore their compensation options with an attorney. An experienced Huntington personal injury attorney may be able to discuss the case and whether compensation is possible.