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cars in traffic in rhode island during a winter storm

10 Winter Driving Safety Tips for Rhode Island

Rhode Island is no stranger to harsh storms: The infamous blizzard of 78 buried the state in more than 40 inches of snow and left more than 3,000 cars and 500 trucks abandoned on Route 128. Today, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) responds to 20-30 winter storms every year, many of which create dangerous driving conditions, like heavy snowfall, freezing rain, and black ice. To stay safe in this hazardous weather, it’s crucial for Rhode Islanders to understand safe winter driving techniques. Below, learn how to stay safe when driving in harsh winter weather, and get winter driving safety tips on what to do after a crash, courtesy of a RI car accident lawyer.

Winter driving safety statistics in Rhode Island

Every year in the United States, almost 116,800 people are injured in crashes on snowy, slushy, or icy pavement. Although winter weather can cause hazards in any state, drivers in Rhode Island may face an elevated risk. Rhode Island is ranked number four overall among states with the most fatal car crashes on highways from 2021 to 2022, making safe driving more important than ever.

With that in mind, here are some safety tips for driving in winter weather.

winter driving safety tips from aaa

Winter driving safety tips for Rhode Islanders

If you can, it’s usually best to stay home during winter storms. But if you have to venture out on the roads, the following safe winter driving tips could help you stay prepared while braving the Rhode Island highways.

  1. Warm up with supervision. If you warm up your car, don’t leave it unattended. Only warm up your vehicle in open areas, like a driveway – never in enclosed spaces, like a garage.
  2. Clear Snow away. Driving with snow on your car’s windshield could inhibit your visibility. And, in Rhode Island, it’s actually against the law to drive a vehicle that has significant snow or ice buildup on it. So, clear snow away from the roof, hood, trunk, and license plates before driving.
  3. Stay in touch. Before leaving the house, make sure your phone is fully charged. It’s also a good idea to have an emergency charger brick on hand for backup. If you’re planning a longer trip, alert your family or friends or your plans ahead of time.
  4. Fill the tank up. While gas only freezes at extreme temperatures, a near-empty tank can attract condensation, which could corrode and damage the inside of your tank. So, try to keep your gas tank at least half full during the winter.
  5. Drive slowly. Accelerating and stopping both take longer on snowy or icy roads. To remedy this, accelerate and decelerate gently to avoid skidding or locking the brakes.
  6. Maintain a safe following distance. Increase your following distance with other cars from 3-4 seconds to 5-6 seconds. The extra room could help you avoid rear-ending the person in front of you.
  7. Don’t pass snow plows. Drivers of large utility vehicles, like plows and sanding trucks, have limited visibility. Don’t attempt to follow them too closely, and don’t attempt to pass them, either. Remember: If you can’t see their mirrors, they can’t see you.
  8. Take caution with bridges. Highway overpasses and bridges freeze faster than other parts of the road because freezing winds can pass over them from both above and below. If you must cross a bridge or overpass be extra cautious.
  9. Use inertia on hills. When driving up hills, try to build up inertia on a flat part of the road, then use the buildup to get over the crest. This could help you avoid spinning the wheels when applying the gas.
  10. Never use cruise control. Turn off your cruise control when driving on slippery surfaces like ice or snow. You want complete control over your vehicle at all times.

What to do after a winter storm accident

Even if you’re taking caution, accidents can still strike at any time. So, if you find yourself in a black ice accident, or another collision during a winter storm, keep these tips in mind.

  1. Get to a safe spot. If you can still move the vehicle, move out of the flow of traffic, if possible, to the shoulder of the road.
  2. Check for injuries. Make sure that you or any passengers don’t have any injuries. If you do, call 911. If you don’t, call the police’s non-emergency number. Note: If the first responders want to treat you at the scene or take you to the hospital, let them. Refusing treatment could hurt a personal injury claim later on.
  3. Stay visible. Turn your hazard lights on to help other drivers spot you and minimize the chances of a potential pile-up. If the storm is particularly thick, tie a brightly colored cloth to your antennae for added visibility.
  4. Exchange information. If the other drivers involved also pull over, you can exit your vehicle and exchange your insurance information and contact details.
  5. Keep warm. While you wait for emergency services or while documenting the scene, stay warm with a spare jacket or an emergency blanket. (Check out our recommendations for a winter driving preparedness checklist here.) If you’re running the engine for heat, make sure the exhaust pipe is clear to avoid carbon monoxide buildup.
  6. Stay with your car. Don’t leave your car or try to walk for help, especially in low-visibility weather. Other drivers may not see you, or you may risk getting lost in the storm.
  7. Contact legal advice. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to call your insurance company at the scene. If you need more specific advice or guidance on how to best handle the situation, contact a Rhode Island car accident lawyer once you’re safe at home.

See more details in our step-by-step guide: What to do after a car accident.

The best personal injury lawyer in RI for winter driving tips

If you’re hurt in a winter car accident, Petrarca Law is ready to fight for your rights. We can help you file an insurance claim, negotiate to get you the best possible settlement, or even file a personal injury lawsuit on your behalf. The statute of limitations in Rhode Island for personal injury claims is only three years So don’t delay: Contact our office today for a free consultation.