Ohio Winter Driving Laws and Car Accident Liability

Nothing can complicate driving more than winter weather. Snow and ice reduce traction and increase stopping distances, and during an active storm, visibility is significantly impaired. Wintry conditions have a measurable effect on accident rates. Common sense tips, such as slowing down and increasing following distance, go a long way towards preventing crashes. However, there are also specific Ohio winter driving laws in effect. Failure to follow these rules can not only result in a fine, but also cause car and truck accidents.

Commercial Drivers Have a Duty to Slow Down in Winter Weather

Even in bad weather, drivers still owe a duty of care to other drivers. The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that drivers must obey all safety statutes and regulations, regardless of the road conditions. Inclement weather is not an excuse for causing a crash.

If anything, during winter driving conditions, drivers have a heightened duty to be careful. Speed limits, for example, are based on ideal driving conditions. Driving at or slightly above the posted speed limit might be considered safe when the roads are dry, but at times of inclement weather, this might be considered negligent.

The law is explicit when it comes to large commercial vehicles and hazardous weather conditions. Federal law requires drivers to reduce speed when the weather adversely affects visibility or traction. If conditions become bad enough, a truck driver must immediately pull over and stop driving until it is safe to operate again.

A fully-loaded tractor-trailer requires 20 to 40 percent more braking distance than a passenger vehicle.

Ohio also has winter-specific speed limits—for all vehicles—along a stretch of I-90 in Lake County. The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has the ability to adjust the speed limit on digital signs based on factors like pavement conditions, visibility, and precipitation. Despite the speed limit being lowered to 30 mph during a recent storm, snow and whiteout conditions on I-90 caused a truck accident and ensuing 25-car pileup when a tractor-trailer jackknifed.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports that around one-quarter of large truck crashes occur when drivers travel too fast for conditions. The FMCSA advises drivers to reduce their speed by one-third on wet roads and by one-half or more on snowy roads. A fully-loaded tractor-trailer requires 20 to 40 percent more braking distance than a passenger vehicle. Stopping on ice and snow-covered roads requires 3 to 12 times the distance than on dry roads.

Ohio Winter Driving Laws

Around 25 percent of weather-related car crashes occur on snowy, icy, or slushy pavement, and 15 percent of crashes happen during snowfall or sleet, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Winter weather is associated with more than 2,200 deaths and nearly 200,000 injuries each year. Last winter in Ohio, there were more than 15,600 crashes and 27 deaths on snow, ice, or slush-covered roads, reports Patch.

In addition to the general duty of drivers to take extra precautions in wintry conditions, there are a couple of specific Ohio winter driving laws.

  • You must clear your vehicle of snow before driving. The law requires motorists to clear off their windows, license plates, headlights, and tail lights. Law enforcement can cite violators for a minor misdemeanor. While there is no rule against driving with snow on the vehicle’s hood, roof, or trunk, if snow or ice comes off your vehicle and causes an accident, you may be held liable.
  • You are required to have your headlights on any time your windshield wipers are on. Although officers cannot pull you over and ticket you for failing to comply, they could issue a citation if you’re stopped for another reason. Some insurance companies treat a headlight violation as a primary offense, which can cause rates to increase. Driving without your lights on could also be considered negligent if you are involved in a car crash.

Remember that in Ohio, a driver might be found negligent or comparatively negligent for any action deemed to be unsafe for the prevailing weather conditions. This can include speeding, following too closely, and improper vehicle maintenance.

Car and Truck Accident Attorneys Serving Southeastern Ohio

Winter weather is more than an inconvenience. At times, it can be downright dangerous. No matter how safely you drive, the actions of other drivers put you at risk. Accidents may be a part of winter in Ohio, but that doesn’t excuse the responsible parties. It may be harder to determine liability when a winter storm unleashes chaos on the roads. If you were hurt in a crash and need help with your claim, Graham & Graham is here for you and your family. We’ve been serving the residents of Southeastern Ohio for nearly 100 years and offer skilled representation in the areas of car and truck accidents.

Call 1-800-621-8585 or Contact Us to schedule a free case review

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