Avoiding Winter Car Accidents In The Bay Area
The combination of earlier sunsets, more rain and hectic holiday traffic increases the risk of a car accident. Here are tips to keep you and your family safe.
As a law firm specializing in personal injury cases stemming from car accidents, I know first hand how devastating a car accident can be for surviving victims and their loved ones. Thanksgiving weekend already experienced its fair share of traffic tragedies, see for example this SF Chronicle headline reading, “Two People Killed in Bay Area Crashes on Thanksgiving Weekend,” and this post, honoring the death of a biker struck by a vehicle on San Jose’s Bascom Avenue.
The simple truth is that nearly all car crashes are avoidable with a little extra attention on the part of the drivers. As we enter the midstream of the holiday season, our law firm wants to emphasize how important your “Safety First!” mantra is on dark, wet and busy Bay Area highways and roads.
5 Tips To Keep You Safe From Winter Car Accidents
Please observe the following five safety tips to protect yourself, your passengers, as well as community pedestrians and bikers. Causing a car accident - or being the victim of a crash - is not the legacy you want to be left with in the new year.
NEVER DRIVE WHILE UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Before we proceed with our five tips, let’s be very clear about the #1 rule around holiday driving: Never drive while under the influence of alcohol, narcotics or prescription drugs. It is unsafe to operate a vehicle after consuming any amount of alcohol. As the highway signs say, “Buzzed driving is drunk driving,” and California penalties are steep. There is not much a lawyer can do for you if you drive drunk or buzzed and end up incarcerated or involved in a car accident.
Legal protocols are strict, and regardless of whether you have a lawyer or not, if you are involved in an accident while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you are guaranteed to have a suspended license, serve some amount of jail time, and pay steep fines. In the worst case scenario, you will have injured or killed an innocent victim who is someone’s mother, father, child, etc. If you plan on consuming alcohol, always designate a sober driver or make arrangements to use one of the numerous ride sharing services available here in the Bay Area.
Keep your eyes on the road
First and foremost, it is imperative that you keep your eyes on the road at all times. As stated in our post on the leading causes of car accidents in California, “[s]tatistics show that distracted or inattentive driving is now the leading cause of car accidents in California and the United States.” In 2021, nobody should be surprised to learn that sending and receiving texts, and reading or preparing social media postings, are the leading causes of distracted driving.
Pull over to a safe location whenever you need to check email, social media posts or send/receive texts. If you are compelled to read/send texts or emails while behind the wheel, be sure to keep your phone tucked away and out of reach while in the car. Putting your phone in the trunk is a surefire way to guarantee you will not reach for it while driving. No message is worth a car accident and it is certainly not worth your or someone else's life.
Avoiding other common causes of distracted driving also reduces your chances of a winter car accident. With that in mind:
- Always use hands-free phone features and mount the phone in accordance with California traffic safety laws.
- Do not allow pets to roam freely in the car. Use proper restraints to secure them, which also reduces their risk of being injured or killed in a car accident.
- Have your playlist lined up before you go so you do not have to adjust music or controls on the road.
- Pull over to tend to children or pets in the rear seats.
- Keep conversation to a minimum.
Check the weather reports ahead of time
The combination of rain and mechanical fluids and oils on the roadway make for more slippery surfaces. Check the weather report on travel days and be prepared. If the forecast calls for rain, try to drive during the least stormy windows. If you must drive in the rain, allow more time to get to your destination so you can adhere to the speed limit and leave plenty of room between you and the other vehicles.
If possible, change travel dates and times so you do not have to worry about driving in inclement weather.
Leave plenty of room between you and fellow drivers to avoid winter car accidents
While this is a year-round driving adviso, it is especially important during the winter season: leave plenty of room between you and the car in front of you. Driving too close to the car in front of you, known as tailgating, is a leading cause of rear-end collisions and their related injuries. The simple act of leaving a few extra feet of space can significantly decrease the likelihood of an accident because you will have enough time and distance to bring your vehicle safely to a stop before impacting the vehicle in front of you.
California Vehicle Code section 21703 VC states, “[t]he driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicle and the traffic upon, and the condition of, the roadway.”
The best rule of thumb to avoid tailgating and allow enough space for your response time is to leave at least one car length of distance per every 10 mph you are traveling. This distance should be increased on narrow roadways without a shoulder or when there are adverse road/weather conditions.
Inspect windshield wipers and tires (and replace if needed)
While it does not snow very often in the San Francisco Bay Area, rain is a frequent visitor. A properly functioning vehicle is required to drive safely, so take your car in for a seasonal inspection. If you are due for a tire rotation or oil change, service representatives will be happy to do this for you. Make sure your windshield wipers and tires are in good condition to optimize visibility and traction.
Observe safety protocols if you break down or are in a fender bender
Believe it or not, drivers who look at accidents are more likely to drift over and cause another accident, often striking the pulled over vehicles or the individuals involved in the accident who are often standing outside of their cars.
Read the Insurance Information Institute’s post, What to Do at the Scene of an Accident, to learn more about how to stay safe if you need to pull over or exit your car on the side of the road. Tips include:
- Pulling as far off the road as possible
- Using flashers, flares and other blinking lights
- Minimizing time standing outside of the vehicle
The legal team at Burneikis Law wishes your family a safe journey to and from Bay Area holiday activities. Buckle up and drive safe!