Embracing New Jersey’s Seasons While Safely Navigating Weather Hazards in Freehold, Hazlet, Colts Neck, and Throughout Southern New Jersey
One of the great delights of living in or visiting New Jersey is the distinct four seasons of the Garden State. Yet, with those seasonal changes come weather conditions that can create driving hazards for the millions of vehicles that traverse New Jersey roads each year. Furthermore, the diverse landscape of the Garden State experiences various types of road hazards, which are affected by hurricanes along the shoreline, flooding in lowlands, and icy sleet in the steep, winding roads of the northwest.
The key to safe driving is to understand the weather risks presented in an area and employ appropriate and defensive driving techniques that suit the circumstances. Have you ever noticed that reports of rare snowfall in southern states like Georgia are usually accompanied by a high number of auto accidents, yet the same is not true in places like Anchorage, Alaska, even with its own city traffic congestion? Presumably, the difference is attributable to the resident’s preparation for the weather conditions and their knowledge of how to safely operate a vehicle in those conditions.
By understanding how to prudently operate a vehicle through common weather challenges in New Jersey and appropriately respond to a motor vehicle accident if you are involved in one, you can minimize your risk of injury and property damage, and, in the event of an accident, maximize the compensation you recover for your damages.
New Jersey’s Four Seasons and the Perils for Drivers
Four seasons and a diverse geographical landscape render the state of New Jersey subject to a large range of hazardous weather conditions for drivers. Nearly the entire state is subject to occasional snow and ice storms in winter months. When these conditions come on quickly, it can leave town and city road maintenance workers with inadequate time to salt the roads, creating dangerously slick road conditions for drivers.
Another sometimes forgotten but significant weather condition that leads to numerous accidents each year is fog. When a driver cannot see more than a few feet in front of them, this greatly increases the odds of a motor vehicle accident, particularly on highways.
In recent years, the months of September, October, and November have been known to bring devastating hurricanes and flooding to New Jersey, leading to road closures, bridges that are flooded over, and rivers flooding over into roadways. If a vehicle gets stuck in flooding conditions, the consequences can be deadly. Even when vehicles are able to maneuver through heavy rainfall, these weather conditions make hydroplaning a major concern and safety threat to drivers.
Common Motor Vehicle Accidents in Poor Weather Conditions
When traction on the roads or visibility is poor due to weather conditions, there are certain types of motor vehicle accidents that are more common. Rear-end collisions can result from a driver having limited visibility of their surroundings, not breaking in time to avoid a collision, or driving at too high of a speed in slippery conditions. Sometimes, these rear-end collisions can create a domino effect of a multi-vehicle pileup. Multi-vehicle pileups can not only be deadly and naturally contribute to injuries for more individuals, but they can also create more complexity in determining liability.
During periods of heavy rainfall, many accidents are caused by a phenomenon called hydroplaning. Hydroplaning occurs when water builds up on the road, creating a layer between a vehicle’s tires and the road itself. As a result of this gap, the tires lose traction on the road and this can cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle, unable to properly brake. This can lead to not only rear-end collisions but side collisions or even spinning of a vehicle, which can crash into a vehicle behind it.
On ice, snow, or sleet, drivers may lose control of their vehicles, fishtail, or fail to adequately brake as they slip on the roads. This can cause rear-end accidents, side collisions, accidents involving pedestrians, or even cause the driver to hit a tree or a building.
Weather-Related Motor Vehicle Crash Injuries Impacting NJ Drivers
Hazardous weather conditions can result in a wide range of injuries to motorists, with whiplash and head injuries being some of the most common types of injuries. When a vehicle stops suddenly, perhaps due to throwing on its brakes when slipping on icy conditions, the forceful forward and backward motion of the vehicle can cause a driver or passenger to experience whiplash in their neck, resulting in pain, pulled muscles, and even spinal injuries.
Head injuries are among the most deadly injuries an individual can suffer in a motor vehicle accident and they can be caused by hitting one’s head on the steering wheel, windshield, or any other hard surface. If an individual is somehow ejected from a vehicle due to the force of the impact, head injuries are likely inevitable and, absent a miracle, very likely to be life-threatening.
Essential Tips for Drivers Facing Adverse Weather Conditions
Perhaps one of the simplest ways to avoid weather-related motor vehicle accidents is to avoid being on the roads during inclement weather whenever possible. If driving during bad weather is a necessity, ensure that your tires are in good condition and that all of your vehicle lights are operating properly.
It is critical to maintain a safe speed under the circumstances. Maybe the speed limit on a road is 50 mph, but that is a safe speed when the road conditions are normal. It may be much too fast when the roads are icy or when visibility is extremely poor due to fog.
While reducing your speed, keep extra distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. Depending on the circumstances, consider putting your hazard lights on to signal to vehicles behind you that you are driving at a very reduced speed or that the conditions before you are particularly hazardous. This will signal to drivers behind you that they too should slow down and be prepared to stop if necessary.
Proving Liability under the Circumstances of Present Weather Conditions
While none of us can control the weather, we can to a large degree control how we operate our vehicles under the weather conditions we are presented with. As a driver, you have a legal duty to operate your vehicle as a reasonably prudent driver under the circumstances. When it comes to poor weather conditions, those words “under the circumstances” are key. The way you drive on a sunny, clear-sky day in 70 degree weather will probably not be a safe way to drive in the middle of a blizzard or at 5 am in severe fog.
You have a duty to drive at a speed that is appropriate for the weather conditions, even if that speed is much lower than the posted speed limit. You must also keep a safe distance between you and other vehicles.
If you or another driver fail to operate a vehicle as a reasonably prudent driver under the circumstances of the present weather conditions and your deviation from this standard is the direct cause of an accident, then you may be liable for the damages that result.
New Jersey is a “no-fault” state for insurance claims, but in reality, there are many circumstances, depending on the insurance coverage of the parties involved, where the negligence of a driver is relevant and a car accident personal injury claim can be brought against them.
Let Our Firm Be Your Advocate in Seeking the Compensation You Deserve after a Car Accident During Adverse Weather Conditions in Southern New Jersey
Navigating fault and liability, particularly within New Jersey’s “no-fault” framework can be tricky. An experienced New Jersey accident lawyer at Chamlin, Uliano & Walsh can review your case, help you to navigate the insurance claim process and negotiate with the insurance companies on your behalf, and if appropriate, help you to bring a claim for compensation for your damages against the party responsible for causing your injuries and property damage.
For a complimentary review of your case following a car accident during bad weather in Holmdel, Belmar, Seaside Heights, Ocean Township, Middletown, Neptune, Howell, or elsewhere in Middlesex, Ocean, or Monmouth County, please contact us today at 732-440-3950. We welcome your inquiry and encourage you to set up a consultation with one of our injury lawyers.