Texas traffic safety: Winter weather driving tips

Driving during the winter months, when conditions may unexpectedly change, may be dangerous, but there are things people can do to improve their safety.

In 2015, 17,011 people were seriously injured and 3,531 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents across Texas, according to the state's Department of Transportation. Driving during optimal conditions may be dangerous enough, but the risk for collisions resulting in serious injuries or death may increase during inclement weather. There are, however, things people can do to help improve their safety when driving during the winter months or when the Texas weather unexpectedly turns bad.

Account for decreased visibility

Fog, rain, ice and other weather conditions may affect the ability of drivers to see the road in front of them and the vehicles around them. It may be a good idea for motorists to keep a following distance of eight to 10 seconds when visibility is low. Leaving extra space between their automobiles and the cars in front of them may allow people time to react to hazards or changes in the traffic conditions. Additionally, drivers are advised to turn their headlights on, which may help them to see the road better and to stand out to other motorists.

Perform vehicle maintenance

To run efficiently, especially in inclement weather, motor vehicles must be properly maintained. Throughout the year, drivers should conduct regular maintenance checks on their automobiles and make any needed repairs. Before hitting the road during the winter, it is suggested that motorists check the following: wiper blades, brakes, tires, headlights and tail lights, heater, defroster, battery, ignition and anti-freeze level. Ensuring these systems are functioning properly may help people avoid having an issue while they are out.

Slow down

Speed limits are meant for normal weather and road conditions. If the road is icy, wet or otherwise slick, motorists may not have the traction needed to maintain control of their automobiles at the posted speeds. Drivers, therefore, are advised to slow down when the weather conditions are poor, and try to avoid abrupt accelerations, decelerations and turns. This may help keep them from skidding or otherwise losing control of their cars, which may help prevent some motor vehicle accidents.

Use caution on bridges

Bridges, shaded areas, ramps and overpasses often freeze over first. Consequently, there may be ice on a bridge or other surfaces before the highway or road ices over. When traveling in wet, freezing or icy conditions, motorists should keep an eye out for pavement that appears wet, like new or dark. Since this may indicate the presence of ice, they should use extra caution when approaching such surfaces.

Check the weather

When the conditions are particularly bad, it may be best to avoid travel altogether. During the winter months especially, people should check the weather before going out. If the conditions are poor where they are traveling or through their intended path, the may consider an alternative route. Drivers are advised to stay home or delay their travel whenever possible during inclement weather.

Poor weather and traffic conditions may lead to auto collisions with potentially devastating consequences. If people are injured in such crashes, they may need extensive medical treatment and time away from work to heal. Under certain circumstances, the drivers responsible for causing motor vehicle accidents may be held liable for the resulting damages. Thus, it may be of benefit for those who have suffered injuries in winter wrecks to discuss their rights and options with an attorney.