Winter Safety on the Road

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – Frodo Baggins quoting Bilbo Baggins to Samwise Gamgee from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring.

As the southern summer, false fall, second summer, and real fall finally come to a close this year, we prepare for the fact that winter is coming. For many of us, that means throwing on a thicker coat or more layers as we go about preparing for the holidays. However, staying warm is not the only precaution we should consider during the winter months.

In the past 3 years, we have experienced 2 major snow and ice events in Texas – Winter Storm Uri in 2021 and a major ice event in January of this year. Those events created hazardous conditions for those who braved the roads and for those whose job required they traverse the frozen roads. This winter is predicted to be wetter than average, so what can we learn from these prior events so that we can avoid being swept up into an accident?

1. If road conditions are hazardous, do not travel unless it is necessary. Unlike our northern friends, many of us do not have the training or experience to drive safely in ice or snow. A wet road can unexpectedly transform into an icy road. This is especially true for
bridges. Staying off the road protects both you and others who may have to travel by reducing the number of vehicles on the road that could be involved in an accident. A phone call to your friends and family may be the safest choice for everyone.

2. If you must go out, slow down. According to the Texas Driver’s Handbook, a person takes around 1.5 seconds to react and begin braking. At 20 miles per hour, with good brakes and ideal conditions, a car will stop in approximately 63 feet. And at 60 miles per hour, that becomes 303 feet! The distances are increased for bigger and heavier vehicles, such as eighteen-wheelers. Add wet or icy roads and those distances exponentially increase. Slowing down allows you time to observe the road conditions and to react to any hazards safely. It also allows you to maintain more control over your vehicle. 240 feet could be the difference between making it to the office Christmas party and spending Christmas in the hospital. I, and all of your friends and family, would rather you arrive late, than not arrive at all.

3. Prepare to be stranded. For an Eagle Scout, the motto of “Be prepared” is a way of life. However, most of us (myself included, even though I am an Eagle Scout!) are not prepared to spend the night in our car in potentially freezing conditions. What should you include to
be prepared? I recommend the following:
a. Ice scraper and snow brush;
b. Reflective warning triangles or roadside flares;
c. First aid kit;
d. Flashlight;
e. Jumper cables;
f. Basic tool kit or multi-tool;
g. Warm clothes, jackets, blankets, and/or a sleeping bag;
h. Toilet paper;
i. Water; and
j. Non-perishable food.

With those items, your impromptu “camping trip” should be a fun story to share with friends and family over hot drinks and a roaring fire once you make it home.

I hope that neither you nor I need to use these tips this winter. However, now we might be a little more prepared for hazardous winter road conditions by evaluating the hazards we could face and thinking about how to mitigate and avoid being involved in an accident. In the event that you or a friend, family member, or employee find themselves involved in an accident this winter, Murphy Legal is here to provide legal advice and counsel.

From all of us at Murphy Legal, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

– Written by Aaron Hubbard

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