Motor Vehicle Accidents in Winter Conditions

Winter weather has arrived in New Jersey and bad weather conditions are commonly a factor in motor vehicle accidents. Snow and ice can reduce visibility  while simultaneously increasing stopping distances. Therefore, additional care must be exercised when driving in any adverse weather conditions, but particularly winter weather.  A car accident in the winter has great potential for harm and liability. Before contacting your or the other driver’s insurance, one additional issue is that insurance adjusters will often attempt to get a driver to admit liability for an accident in snowy conditions in order to avoid paying claims. 

Driver’s Must Clear Snow and Ice from Vehicles under New Jersey Law

It is now the law in New Jersey that motorists are required to clear all snow and ice from their vehicles before driving. You can be ticketed and fined for failing to do so, even if there has been no accident, no property damage and no injuries. Under N.J.S.A. 39:4-77.1(a)(1):

 Each driver of a motor vehicle operated on a street or highway in this State shall have an affirmative duty to make all reasonable efforts to remove accumulated ice or snow from exposed surfaces of the motor vehicle prior to operation, which surfaces shall include, but not be limited to, the hood, trunk, windshield, windows and roof of the motor vehicle, the cab of a truck, the top of a trailer or semitrailer being drawn by a motor vehicle, and the top of an intermodal freight container being carried by an intermodal chassis. 

Essentially this means that before driving, you must remove an accumulation of snow and ice form your vehicle regardless of how slight the accumulation may be. While there is perhaps some wiggle room in the “reasonable efforts” language meaning that you are probably not expected to remove every single snowflake, a more thorough removal job reduces your likelihood of facing legal liability.

blurry bicyclist dangerously crosses in front of moving car

A person who violates the provisions of this subsection may be stopped on a street or highway by a law enforcement officer who believes the accumulated ice or snow may pose a threat to persons or property.” Furthermore, should accumulated snow and ice fall from your vehicle and cause a car accident or damage to another’s vehicle, it is highly likely you will be held liable.

Winter driving accidents can be caused by any number of factors

Winter weather unfortunately means that road conditions are often less than ideal. Drivers must take action to adjust for these conditions. Some factors drivers should beware of include:

  • Increased braking distance – snow and ice prevent a vehicle from stopping as quickly on dry pavement.
  • Decreased visibility – driving in snow, sleet, or freezing rain can be more difficult for drivers to see.
  • Distracted driving – cell phones, radios, children, passengers or pets can all distract a driver’s attention away from the road. In icy or snowy road conditions that require greater stopping distances, these distractions are even more dangerous.
  • Black ice – black ice makes it almost impossible for any vehicle to keep its grip on the road, and it is almost impossible to see. Slowing down and keeping longer distances between your car and the vehicle in front of you are two steps you can take to reduce the risks associated with black ice.
  • Ice under snow – snow can, and often does, hide a layer of ice underneath it. Be sure to brush snow off your vehicle and assess what lies beneath. Also be sure to account for a potential layer of ice beneath the snow on road surfaces.

hands on wheel

It isn’t just winter conditions that cause motor vehicle accidents. Some other common causes of motor vehicle accidents are failure to stop at a red light or stop sign; drunk driving; road rage; aggressive driving; speeding; driving too slowly; and tailgating. When these factors are combined, the risk for a serious motor vehicle accident increases significantly.

Injured in a Vehicle Crash Due to Another’s Reckless, Careless or Negligent Driving?

If you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident, contact a New Jersey personal injury lawyer today. The Law Offices of Joseph Lombardo has been assisting clients in matters such as this in Hammonton and throughout south Jersey since 1993.  We will fight to protect your rights under New Jersey law. To schedule a confidential consultation at our Hammonton, Atlantic City, or Linwood offices call (609) 445-4300 today or contact us online.

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