Articles Posted in Weather Related Accidents

Winter weather has been a part of east coast life this season for at least a couple of months. Along with the danger and inconvenience posed by the cold weather and frigid wind chills, the advent of winter weather also greatly increases the road risks in the beltway region. Snow, Ice, and freezing rain all affect the ability of drivers to safely see the roads and control tier vehicles, especially at highway speeds. A recently published news article discusses a rollover accident involving a pickup truck, which demonstrates that these winter driving dangers are multiplied further when large vehicles are involved, especially when they are not equipped for traveling on winter roads.

According to the facts discussed in the news report, a winter storm created hazardous conditions on an interstate near a major city on the eastern seaboard. While municipal crews were working to clear an accident involving a pickup truck on one side of the highway, another truck slipped off the road on the other side, striking a barricade and rolling onto its side. No injuries were mentioned in the report, however, a traffic camera recording of the incident shows how easily the result of the crash could have become tragic.

Drivers are responsible to maintain their vehicle in a reasonably safe condition to drive in the road conditions that are present at that time. When winter weather strikes or is anticipated (especially if a warning is issued), drivers should be prepared to travel safely. To safely prepare for winter conditions, drivers should consider keeping traction devices (such as tire chains) in their cars and installing them when needed. Studded winter tires also greatly improve traction on dangerous roads. Drivers with rear-wheel drive vehicles, such as many pickup trucks, must be extra careful to avoid high speeds and use four-wheel drive if available.

The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) prioritizes keeping Maryland roadways open and safe. However, despite MDOT SHA’s best efforts to maintain the roadways, any infrastructure damage can result in a serious Maryland accident. These accidents tend to become more common and disastrous when the accident involves bad weather and large trucks.

Trucks are inherently dangerous because of the sheer size and speed at which they travel on highways. Inclement weather, including snow, ice, sleet, rain, and fog, can amplify the likelihood of an accident. Although many truck drivers and trucking companies will blame Mother Nature for the accident, almost every accident involves some form of human error. Unlike many other motorists, truck drivers do not always have the option of remaining off the road during severe weather episodes. As such, those on the road during a severe weather event are more likely to encounter a truck.

Federal regulations require that truck drivers modify their driving habits and exercise caution when operating their large vehicles during inclement weather. While these rules are designed to protect both the driver and others, truck drivers often overestimate the level of control they have over their vehicles. Moreover, these drivers tend to have strict delivery deadlines, only furthering the likelihood of a serious and deadly accident.

As winter weather descends upon Maryland, residents can expect to see more and more weather-related accidents. Some of these accidents involve snow plows. Just this week, Maryland and the entire Northeast received many inches of snow, leading to a need for plows to clear roads and walkways. But, like any time one operates a vehicle, there is always a risk of an a Maryland accident when using snowplows.

For example, just last week, a nurse was killed in a snow plow accident at a hospital. According to a local news report covering the tragedy, the nurse walked up behind a vehicle plowing snow as the operator of the vehicle was backing up. The nurse was struck and ultimately died from the crash. This tragic story is just one example of how snow plowing may lead to increased accidents, yet another concern of wintery weather accidents in Maryland.

Are Snowplow Accidents Common?

Although snow plow accidents may seem like a somewhat unique occurrence, that isn’t necessarily the case given the limited amount of time they are on the road. Snow plows operate during some of the most dangerous weather conditions, and drivers must always be on alert. Those injured in such an accident can file a personal injury lawsuit against a negligent party in just the same way that those injured in more typical Maryland truck or bus accidents can. These personal injury lawsuits can provide important financial recovery for the injured and/or their families, allowing them to pay off medical bills or deal with lost wages without fear of bankruptcy.

For a relatively small state, Maryland has a dense network of highways connecting several major cities on the eastern seaboard. As a result, Maryland gets a significant amount of semi-truck traffic throughout the year.

At the same time, it is not unusual for Maryland to receive snow for five months out of the year. And while many motorists may decide to stay home when road conditions become compromised due to the weather conditions, semi-truck drivers have added pressure to get to where they are going. It is no surprise, then, that during the winter months, there is a noticeable increase in the number of Maryland truck accidents.

It’s true that semi-truck drivers face pressure from employers to deliver goods as quickly as possible. In most cases, truck drivers are financially incentivized to complete their route quickly. However, this pressure often results in truck drivers deciding to drive during storms or when road conditions are unsafe. It is this same pressure that is also the root cause of many Maryland drowsy driving truck accidents.

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With the most recent storm, many areas in Maryland received several inches of snow. While many people were told not to come to work due to the weather, others did not have a choice and were forced to negotiate the dangerous conditions. Indeed, according to a recent report, in just a single five-hour period Maryland State Police responded to nearly 100 accidents and 70 reports of disabled or unattended vehicles. During that same period, Virginia police reported over 400 accidents.

While inclement weather affects all motorists, truck drivers are perhaps the most impacted. When road conditions are wet or slick, the inherent dangers of operating a large vehicle become heightened. For example, during inclement weather conditions, a truck driver’s visibility of the road ahead dramatically decreases. At the same time, the distance a truck needs to come to a complete stop increases significantly. Thus, unless a truck driver takes precautionary measures, the chance of the truck driver causing a Maryland weather-related truck accident greatly increases.

Maryland truck drivers, like all other drivers, have a duty to other motorists on the road. In addition to following all traffic laws and posted signage, this duty requires truck drivers to take the current weather conditions into account.

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Over the past few months, Maryland has seen an unusual amount of rain. This weather, aside from ruining summer plans, also creates a hazard for Maryland motorists. Wet roads create numerous difficulties for motorists, most of which can be avoided by slowing down and paying close attention to the road conditions. One of the most common causes of Maryland traffic accidents during a rainstorm is hydroplaning.

Hydroplaning occurs when a vehicle travels not on the surface of the roadway as it would in dry conditions, but instead on a thin layer of water on top of the road’s surface. In order for a vehicle to hydroplane, there only needs to be a tiny amount of water on the roadway. Thus, most hydroplaning accidents occur within the first ten minutes of a rainstorm, when the road doesn’t necessarily look slippery to motorists.

There are a number of factors that can increase the risk of a vehicle hydroplaning, including:

  • The vehicle’s gross weight;
  • Driving on improperly inflated tires;
  • Traveling at excessive speeds;
  • Driving on worn tires;
  • The depth of the water on the roadway; and
  • Making a sharp turn.

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Earlier this week, an accident involving two semi-trucks, two buses, and several passenger cars sent 29 people to the hospital, several with serious injuries. According to a local news report, the collision occurred in the evening hours during a time when roads were slick due to the recent snowfall.

Given the magnitude of the accident, authorities have yet to determine exactly what happened in the moments leading up to the accident. Witnesses told reporters that the two semi-trucks involved in the accident were traveling at a high rate of speed, which resulted in the trucks being unable to stop in time to avoid the collision. Once the trucks crashed into the buses, other motorists nearby got involved in a chain-reaction accident, similar to many Maryland bus accidents that we have seen.

One of the buses was pushed off to the side of the road, where it teetered on the edge of an embankment. Those on board were told not to move until it was safe to do so. Accident reconstructionists surveyed the scene and its aftermath, and the accident is still under official investigation.

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Truck drivers have a lot of responsibility when operating large commercial vehicles across the nation’s highways. They must ensure that they remain alert during their trip, follow all posted traffic signs, and stay very aware of their surroundings, due to the significant blind spots most large trucks have. These difficulties are only compounded when inclement weather rolls in. Indeed, the number of Maryland truck accidents spikes during the winter months, when road conditions are most compromised. Often, weather-related truck accidents are caused in part by unexpected or otherwise dangerous road conditions. However, truck driver error also plays a role in most weather-related truck accidents.

Truck drivers are responsible to account for the current weather and road conditions when operating their rig. This may mean pulling off to the side of the road during an especially bad snowstorm or traveling below the posted speed limit. When a truck driver fails to take these additional precautions, it is not just the weather that is to blame but also the truck driver.

Those injured in a Maryland truck accident have the ability to file a Maryland personal injury lawsuit against the allegedly negligent driver and, in many cases, against the driver’s employer as well.

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Over the next several months of winter, Maryland will likely see numerous rain and snow storms. Indeed, the average amount of snowfall in Maryland as a whole is over 20 inches per year. In some areas of the state, the average reaches above 100 inches per year. It will come as no surprise to motorists to hear that the road conditions after a snowstorm can be extremely dangerous for all motorists. This is especially the case for those operating large semi-trucks or tractor-trailers.

Commercial drivers who operate these large trucks are considered professional drivers and are required to obtain a certain amount of training. However, no amount of training can substitute for the good judgment required to safely operate a large truck on slick and icy Maryland roads after a snow storm. Not all truck accidents are avoidable, but there are certain things that all truck drivers should do in order to ensure safe travel during inclement road conditions:

  • Ensure that all tires are in good condition and are properly inflated;
  • Double-check the braking systems before each trip;
  • Ensure adequate stopping distance by not following too closely;
  • Always remain distraction-free; and
  • Maintain a safe speed given the conditions.

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Earlier this month in Michigan, a truck accident involving 53 vehicles claimed the lives of three people. According to one local news source covering the tragedy, the accident occurred when a sudden snowfall caused white-out conditions on the highway. Evidently, the massive chain reaction accident began when a semi-truck jackknifed, blocking most of the lanes on the highway.

Authorities do not know exactly what happened in the moments after the initial collision between several cars and the jackknifed semi-truck, due to the number of subsequent collisions and vehicles involved. However, authorities are confident in labeling this as a weather-related accident, since the road already had a thin sheet of ice on it before it started to snow.

Witnesses to the accident told reporters that cars and trucks approaching the pile-up were applying their brakes as soon as they could see the upcoming collision, but they were often too late. Dozens of vehicles collided on the highway, and dozens more ended up off the road in an attempt to avoid what would have been a certain collision.

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