Crashes caused by bad weather are most common in the winter months in Massachusetts. In December, January and February, the roads are likely to be snowy, icy and wet. Slick roads and reduced visibility significantly increase the chances of a car accident. These road conditions also make distracted driving much riskier in the winter.
Nearly three-fourths of the nation's roads are in snowy regions with an increased chance of accidents during the winter months. In 2019, there were 36,096 fatal traffic accidents nationwide, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association. In Massachusetts, there were 334 traffic-related deaths involving more than 450 vehicles. It’s estimated that about 1,300 people are killed and nearly 117,000 people are injured in car crashes on the snowy, slushy, or icy pavement each year. Close to 20% of car crashes happen in snowy conditions.
5 Common Winter Car Accidents Scenarios in Massachusetts
- Poor Road Conditions
- Distracted Driving
- Poor Visibility
- Excessive Speed
- Car Condition
1) Poor Road Conditions: Ice, Snow, Slush and more
As the weather gets colder, roads can become very slippery with ice. Because of the ice, rear-end collisions are the most common winter accidents.
Snow and ice reduce friction on the roads, which increases the risk of crashes and accidents. Every year, about 40% of weather-related car accidents happen on snowy, slushy, or icy pavement or during snowfall or sleet, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
Black ice is hazardous because it’s very thin and hard to see but is very slick. Black ice is formed when moisture on the road freezes overnight as the temperatures drop. Even light snow or rain can lead to black ice on the roads. Black ice can be on roads during any time of day, but it’s important to be careful during the evening and mornings especially.
Take your time when driving, especially when accelerating, turning or stopping. Slippery roads lead to difficulty breaking and can cause your car to spin out of control or to slide through an intersection or into another vehicle. To try and avoid crashes due to icy roads, drive slowly and leave extra space between you and the car in front of you.
It can take up to 10x longer to come to a complete stop when driving on snowy roads. The heavier your car, the longer it will take to slow down. Massachusetts speed limits are the maximum speeds recommended under ideal road conditions, so take that into account when you’re driving in the snow.
2) Distracted Driving
Distracted driving is a leading cause of car accidents nationwide. Unfortunately, distracted driving becomes even more dangerous during the winter months.
In the winter, time is of the essence when it comes to avoiding a crash. Driving distracted - while looking at your phone, texting, talking on the phone, changing an address on your maps app or even the song on Spotify - can have devastating consequences. Even if you are doing all the “right” things - drivers around you at any moment could slip or spin out of control on the road in front of you.
Being aware and observing your surroundings while driving is critical. It gives you the best chance possible of avoiding a collision by providing you the time you need to brake effectively or to take evasive actions. The more time you have to ease off the gas, slow down, and react to the road conditions or a traffic event ahead, the better chance you have of avoiding a crash and being injured.
3) Poor Visibility
Snow is the most common cause of poor visibility during the winter months in Massachusetts. Snowstorms, blizzard conditions, and even hail or rain can all affect visibility while driving in the winter. With poor visibility on already slick and dangerous roads, the chances of a car accident are much higher during the winter.
Weather conditions can make it hard to see other cars, objects, and even pedestrians. Always check the weather before you drive to become aware of the conditions. If the weather looks like visibility will be bad, it’s best to wait to drive if you can. If you can’t wait, be sure to drive with extreme caution and take your time. Drive slowly, stay focused, and be aware of your surroundings. Driving in these conditions at night can be even more tricky, which is another reason to use extra caution.
Because of the visibility challenges of driving in the winter, check your windshield wipers and your car’s defroster function at the beginning of the winter season. It’s best to install winter windshield wiper blades that are more heavy-duty and built for snow and ice removal.
Every time before you drive in the winter, make sure your headlights and the hood of your car, your windshield, and the roof of your car are free from snow and ice. With already poor visibility, it’s important to remove as many dangerous factors as possible - including the possibility of snow and ice blowing up into the windshield or falling onto your windshield from the roof of your car. Having clear headlights also means that you’ll have the best chance of seeing any potential ice or other hazards.
We’ve all seen it before - driving down Route 128 on your way to work, and you notice the snow and ice blowing off of the cars in front of you. Completely cleaning your vehicle of snow is important so you are not one of the drivers allowing snow, ice and dangerous debris to fly off your car toward other drivers. If you start your car about 10 minutes before removing ice and snow, it will make your job much easier.
If you notice cars with snow and ice still piled high, keep twice the following distance you typically would as you travel. If a large amount of snow or a slab of ice were to fly off a car in front of you, you do not want it to hit your car or windshield. If you see a tractor-trailer or any vehicle where you can’t see the car’s roof, don’t travel directly behind it and pass it if it’s safe to do so.
4) Excessive Speed
Speeding is dangerous all the time, but especially in the winter. Massachusetts’ speed limits are set to be the maximum speed to drive in good weather conditions. Winter weather should mean that you are typically driving below the speed limit and are slowing down as the situation demands.
If you’re driving too fast and hit an area of black ice, you could be in trouble. The faster you’re driving, the longer it will take to stop, and the more likely you are to spin out or slide off the road. For most of us, our instinct is to slam on the brakes to avoid a collision - but in the winter, this not only might not work, but it may increase your chances of sliding or skidding off the road.
5) Car Condition
Before the winter season fully settles in, give your car a check-up to see if it’s ready for the Massachusetts winter elements.
One of the most important things to check is your tires. If your tires are worn out or have bald spots, you will need to get new ones, so you have traction. Even if your tires are in decent shape, it’s best to get a set of snow tires on your car for the winter months. If you buy a nice set of snow tires, put them on before the first snow, and remove them after the last snow, the tires will typically last for many winter seasons.
As mentioned above, you’ll also want to check out your wiper blades and your defroster to make sure both are working well. Make sure you check all your fluid levels, as well. It’s recommended that you never drive with less than half of a tank of gas during the winter in case you get into an accident or get stranded somewhere.
How to Drive Safely in the Winter: Massachusetts Injury Attorney Gives Advice
The good news is that you can minimize the risks of a winter crash with some simple preparation and a bit more focus on the roads.
You can check the weather reports to learn about the road and visibility conditions to decide if you should travel and make sure you build in extra travel time. You can also prepare ahead of the winter season by checking up on your car’s condition and ensuring it’s mechanically fit for winter driving. Two of the most dangerous risk factors in winter driving - distracted driving and driving speed - are entirely in your control.
Another way to be prepared to drive in bad winter weather is by ensuring that you have a few safety items in your trunk. It’s wise to keep the following items in your car throughout the winter:
- Gloves and hats
- Extra food and water
- An emergency kit. This could include items such as:
- Ice scraper and snow brush
- Flashlight & batteries
- A portable phone charger
- A first-aid kit
- A multi-tool like a Leatherman or Swiss Army knife
- Road flares
- A foldable shovel
- Hand warmers
- A bad or sand or cat litter (to help with traction)
- Sleeping bag
Learn more about being a prepared and defensive driver during Massachusetts winters in this blog.
Injured in a Winter Car Accident in Massachusetts? Our Car Accident Injury Attorney Offers FREE Consultations
If you were injured in a winter car accident anywhere in Massachusetts, our car accident injury attorney offers free consultations to discuss your case and your rights. If you were injured in a car accident, it’s always wise to consult an attorney to learn all of your rights and options.
We have offices in Chelsea, Peabody and Worcester, but we can also meet with you remotely from the comfort of your own home, no matter where you live.