During the late fall and sometimes into the first few weeks of winter, there is little appreciable snowfall except for a few occasional snowflakes. However, this is a hazardous time of year and possibly more so than winter. The reasons: the temperature sometimes dips below freezing, the roads are untreated, and motorists are still driving as though it were summer. These three factors can add up to unexpected accidents and even pileups. Here are two typical accident situations:
Black Ice Formation
Black ice can form any time the pavement surface drops below freezing and the roads are untreated. Water pooled around a clogged street gutter or runoff water flowing across the road can freeze into black ice. This often happens overnight when the temperature is sub-freezing. Poor visibility at night makes the ice very difficult to spot. The black ice can linger well into the morning especially on shaded sections of the road and tends to form on bridges. Motorists driving on the perfectly dry pavement at high speeds can be taken by surprise on these isolated sections of ice.
Light snow falling on the untreated pavement in heavy traffic conditions can also cause black ice formation. The tires of the traffic exert pressure on the fallen snowflakes causing them to melt and then refreeze as ice. Again, there's no warning that the road surface has become treacherous other than the behavior of the traffic, which may slow down, experience spin-out accidents, or a pileup.
Car pileups often happen during the first snowfall on the cold untreated pavement, especially during an unexpected and heavy snow squall. When the squall hits, the traffic is packed together and moving at a high speed (typical of dry pavement conditions). The untreated pavement quickly becomes very slippery and the motorists suddenly lose traction because they're too slow in recognizing the danger until it's too late. A pileup accident may then occur because of their close spacing.
The only way to avoid the above accidents is being aware of the conditions that cause them. When the road has no sand, salt, or other treatment, and the temperature is or was recently below freezing, black ice is always a possibility. During these conditions, slow down and allow extra road space between yourself and the car in front. Increase your following distance at the first signs of snow. After a few snowfalls, the roads will have been treated, which inhibits black ice and improves traction in the snow.
If you or someone close to you suffered a personal injury in a car accident because of another's negligent or reckless driving, contact us at Odegaard Braukmann Law.