Determining Liability in a Wintertime Truck Accident

truck crash

Driving in the harsh Syracuse winter can be challenging for everyone, even those used to driving in wintertime conditions. Extreme winter weather can negatively affect the performance of commercial trucks, resulting in dangerous truck accidents. Sleet, haze, and snow can negatively affect a truck driver’s visibility. The road can also create more problems, including taking a long time to brake, and slick road surfaces. Snow, sleet, and ice all carry an increased likelihood of commercial truck drivers losing control of their vehicles. 

Many Winter Truck Accidents Involve Snow and Sleet

Every year in the United States, 24% of weather-related motor vehicle accidents happen on slushy, icy, or snowy pavement. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, 15% of winter weather accidents occur during sleet or snowfall. Additionally, over 1,300 people die every year, and 116,800 people become injured in motor vehicle accidents involving winter weather. Syracuse winters begin early, with the average first frost typically happening around October 13th. The first snowfall often happens in November, and with it comes an increase in truck accidents


Large Trucks are Particularly Vulnerable 

The statistics regarding winter accidents for large commercial vehicles are even more concerning. While the average medium-sized passenger vehicle weighs around 5,000 pounds, a fully loaded commercial vehicle can weigh over 80,000 pounds. Maneuvering large commercial vehicles requires a significant amount of control to stop, especially on dangerously icy Syracuse roads. During the holidays, many people are coming and going from holiday parties. Sometimes they have had too much alcohol and are not paying enough attention, making it more dangerous for all drivers involved.


Truck Drivers Owe Other Drivers a Duty of Reasonable Care

Commercial truck drivers need to have the training and experience to drive safely during winter weather conditions. Trucking companies also have a duty to hire employers who do not have any red flags in their driving history or criminal background. They also need to ensure that their employees have a commercial driver’s license and that they are up-to-date with all of the employee requirements. During inclement weather, truck drivers need to use reasonable care when driving under the circumstances. When dangerous winter weather conditions happen in Syracuse, truck drivers should take the following safety precautions:

  • Check weather conditions: Before beginning their route, commercial truck drivers should check the weather to know what they should expect each day. If a commercial truck driver sees that a major storm is about to hit Syracuse, it may be reasonable for the truck driver to decide not to drive that day.
  • Prepare the truck properly: Trucking companies have a duty to ensure that they have their trucks inspected by mechanics before they hit the road. Experienced and trained mechanics will be able to inspect the truck to ensure the tires are functioning and that all of the parts are working safely. When truck drivers notice a problem with their tires or another mechanical part, they should make an appointment with a mechanic as soon as possible to have the parts inspected to avoid a defect-related motor vehicle accident.
  • Have a Bad Weather Driving Plan: Truck drivers need to defrost and clear off their windshield safely. Commercial trucks should not have any ice or snow on them when driving. 
  • Drive defensively: As mentioned above, many drivers have their guard down when driving during the holiday season. They may drive while intoxicated or not pay enough attention while on the road after coming home from work functions, holiday parties, or family events. Commercial truck drivers should avoid tailgating, speeding, and any type of distracted driving. They should also be on the lookout for signs of other dangerous drivers. 
  • Lookout for Winter Weather Warning Signs. Commercial truck drivers have a legal duty to pay attention to weather advisories and warnings on the weather channel. When local weather agencies recommend that people refrain from driving due to dangerous winter storm conditions, commercial truck drivers should refrain from driving. Unfortunately, many truck drivers are under intense deadlines, and they will risk driving in dangerous weather to complete a job and get paid.


How Winter Weather Can Negatively Affect a Truck Driver 

Syracuse winter conditions can create unique challenges for commercial truck drivers. Truck drivers must adjust their driving to remain safe. When icy conditions create dangerously slick road surfaces, negatively impacting a commercial truck driver’s ability to brake and steer. Large trucks can slide off the road and slam into another passenger vehicle or tree. Truck drivers should stay alert and watch out for black ice, typically on bridges or overpasses. 

Windy weather can catch the exposed sides of a commercial truck, creating instability and making it difficult for the truck driver to brake and steer. Commercial trucks are so large that large gusts of wind have a more significant impact on them than passenger vehicles. Similarly, rainy weather can reduce a commercial truck driver’s ability to see. 

This combination of factors makes it difficult for commercial trucks to avoid hydroplaning. During a hydroplane, a commercial truck can lose traction and slide off the road. Truck drivers can reduce the risk of hydroplaning by ensuring that their tires have been inflated properly, using a lower gear during rain, driving without cruise control, and avoiding hard braking. 


Bringing a Lawsuit Against a Negligent Truck Driver

The first step in bringing a lawsuit against a negligent truck driver is determining who is at fault for the accident. Truck drivers are legally responsible for operating their vehicles safely in dangerous winter weather conditions. The best thing you can do after a dangerous truck accident is to hire an experienced lawyer. At Stanley Law Offices, our lawyers thoroughly investigate our clients’ cases to gather evidence and determine whether the truck driver is liable for their damages. Contact our law firm today to schedule your free case evaluation.