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Road Trip Safety Tips

Whether you have a destination in mind or you’re just looking for a little escape, taking a road trip anywhere in Ontario might satisfy your wanderlust. For people who have been stuck at home for long periods of time while province-wide lockdown measures were in place, the prospect of a brief escape on the open road might sound very appealing. Driving through picturesque stretches of nature or safely visiting a town you’ve never been to before could provide restless Ontarians with a much-needed change of scenery.

Drivers need to exercise good judgment behind the wheel at any time of year. But during the winter months, Ontario’s treacherous weather can increase a person’s likelihood of being involved in a collision. Although the idea of glimpsing beautiful, snow-covered scenery from behind your vehicle’s windshield may seem perfectly innocent, winter excursions on the road can be dangerous. In fact, one third of all Canadian automobile collisions take place between November-February each year.

Even when Spring is around the corner, weather in all regions of the province can be unpredictable. Snow squalls, blizzard, poor visibility, and icy road conditions can persist well past the end of February, creating hazards for eager road-trippers. And even when winter weather begins to transition to warmer temperatures, road conditions can become slick and wet, which could prove dangerous, even for people driving with an abundance of caution.

No matter how many winters a driver has spent navigating Ontario’s snowy conditions and icy roads, weather-related accidents can happen to anyone, and their consequences could be disastrous. By adequately preparing for your wintertime excursion, and exercising some extra safety precautions behind the wheel, you may be able to avoid accidents and serious injuries while enjoying your winter road trip.

Be Prepared for All Kinds of Weather

During unpredictable winter months, changeable weather can quickly turn favourable driving conditions to treacherous ones. A sudden drop in temperature can transform rainwater or melted snow on the road into slick black ice. And even on sunny days, a change in wind conditions can cause snow from frozen lakes or nearby bodies of water to blow onto nearby roads, creating drifts or whiteout conditions.

Preparing for any possible weather-related hazard before setting out on your road trip could help you avoid dangerous situations, and provide life-saving solutions in the event of an accident.

During the transitional period between seasons, changing weather conditions play a role in many of Ontario’s vehicle collisions. Towards the end of the winter, as days grow longer and temperatures begin to gradually rise, drivers often choose to replace their vehicle’s winter tires with their normal all-season tires. However, all-season tires begin to harden in colder weather, which affects their grip. Eager motorists who replace their winter tires at the first sign of warmer weather may find themselves vulnerable to collisions caused by slippery roads and icy conditions during unexpected, late-season temperature drops.

Cold weather can wreak havoc on a car’s battery. Although the average lifespan of a car battery is between three to five years, if not properly maintained, a vehicle’s battery could expire earlier than expected, leaving unprepared drivers stranded in freezing temperatures. Checking the age and condition of a vehicle’s battery before heading out on a road trip may help avoid dangerous situations. If your vehicle has previously stalled, replacing the battery as soon as possible may help avoid further issues down the road. Additionally, if your car’s headlights dim when idling but brighten while revving the engine, or if it makes a grinding noise when trying to start, the battery may be close to dying.

In addition, preparing an emergency supplies kit to store in your vehicle may come in handy, should you find yourself stranded in dangerous weather conditions. Even if you aren’t planning a road trip but only intend on driving a short distance, any vehicle navigating inclement weather should be equipped with:

  • Jumper cables
  • Windshield washer fluid
  • Ice scraper/snow brush
  • Fully charged cell phone
  • Bottled water
  • Granola/energy bars
  • Change of clothing, footwear, warm blankets, etc.
  • And more

Be Alert Behind the Wheel

In a year unlike any other, with exponentially fewer than normal cars on the province’s roads and highways, 2020 saw a significantly reduced number of motor vehicle collisions in Ontario. However, despite lower traffic volumes, the OPP has reported an increase in dangerous driving, including stunt driving on the province’s 400-series highways.

Intentionally reckless road-users can easily cause collisions with unsuspecting drivers, especially if they’re on roadways affected by inclement weather conditions.

Although drivers should always exercise caution and practice safe driving habits while operating their vehicles, in treacherous winter weather, responsible drivers may need to alter their behaviour to try and safely navigate highways and roads. Some examples of winter-related safety precautions include:

  • Keeping an eye out for “black ice”
  • Following traffic at a safe distance
  • Not passing active snow plows clearing the road
  • Adjusting driving speeds to current weather conditions
  • Not using cruise control
  • Not parking on the side of the road
  • And more

Taking Action After an Accident

In the shocking moments following a car accident, it can be difficult to know what actions to take next. This can be especially true of collisions that occurred, in part, because of hazardous weather.

If weather and traffic conditions allow you to safely move the vehicles to the side of the road, using cones or flares may help alert oncoming drivers to your position on the shoulder. Once the vehicles have safely been moved out of the path of oncoming traffic, drivers can use their cellphones to have emergency services deployed to the collision scene.

Even if you do not feel like you’ve sustained an injury, seeking immediate medical attention could be crucial. A body in shock produces adrenaline, which might temporarily diminish or delay the pains associated with a serious injury. An emergency medical examination may provide you with an accurate diagnosis of injuries you may have sustained as a result of the accident, and could help you avoid complications in the recovery process due to delayed treatment.

The severity of injuries sustained in weather-related car accidents can range from mild to catastrophic. Some common injuries resulting from car accidents include:

  • Whiplash
  • Soft tissue injuries
  • Broken and fractured bones
  • Internal organ damage
  • Concussions
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Paralysis
  • And more

Injured accident survivors requiring lengthy periods of recovery may be unable to return to work for a significant period of time, which could cause them to incur substantial financial losses as a result of their injuries. Car accident victims involved in weather-related collisions might also sustain permanent, immobilizing injuries that diminish their quality of life, and have lasting impacts on their families.

Oftentimes, when collisions occur during treacherous winter weather, the conditions of the road are merely a circumstance of the accident, and not necessarily its sole cause. If another driver’s negligence on the road during unsafe weather conditions was responsible for a collision in which you sustained injuries, an Ontario car accident lawyer may be able to help you recover financial compensation for costs you incurred as a result.

Contact Preszler Injury Lawyers Today

Although hitting the road for a mid-winter car trip may seem like a fun family activity, hazardous weather, poor visibility, and dangerous road conditions can be contributing factors in serious collisions. Combined with increased instances of recklessness on Ontario’s roads and highways, an innocent road trip could end in tragic loss, and severe injuries.

If you were injured in a motor vehicle collision caused by another party’s negligence, you may be eligible to receive financial compensation. To discuss the circumstances of the accident and learn if you’re eligible to pursue damages, contact us today.

For a free, initial consultation, call Preszler Injury Lawyers at 1-800-JUSTICE.

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