Winter weather car accidents. Who is at fault?

Winter driving in Iowa can involve any number of hazards — ice, snow, freezing rain, fog, deer, etc. Drivers should be aware of their responsibilities as blizzards and black ice come into season. Even in the spring, summer, and fall, heavy rain can quickly lead to hydroplaning, causing you to lose control of your vehicle.

During our Legal Live segment on KCRG TV’s Facebook page, a viewer asked who is at fault in a car accident when it is slick and one car rear-ends another, then that middle car rear-ends your vehicle. Technically, the first person did not maintain control and is at fault. While a jury might have sympathy for the person who wasn’t able to stop in time because of ice or slush on the road, the law says you must maintain control over your vehicle at all times. That means you must always allow enough space to safely stop without hitting another vehicle, even in winter driving conditions. Slushy roads, icy intersections, and other winter road hazards do not provide a valid excuse for traffic accidents.

Iowa Winter Driving Tips

Rear-end collisions are among the most common traffic accidents, and they frequently result in injury. Most rear-enders can be prevented. To help you keep from sliding into the vehicle in front of you or having another type of accident, we compiled three simple tips for safe winter driving in Iowa.

  1. Slow down. The speed limits are designed for ideal driving conditions. If there is any kind of precipitation in the winter, road conditions are rarely ideal. Precipitation often melts on the roadway, resulting in slick conditions. So, if the road has snow, ice, or water on it, you should slow down to a reasonable speed, which will enable you to stop more quickly.
  2. Focus on driving. During winter weather events, it is more important than ever to remove driving distractions. Turn the radio off and ask passengers for their cooperation. Give your children something to do during the drive so they stay calm and quiet. Most importantly, turn your phone notifications off while you drive, or store your phone in the console where you will not be distracted if it rings or buzzes.
  3. Leave at least three seconds between cars. Under normal driving conditions, the three-second rule applies. Choose a landmark, like a tree or road sign. Begin counting when the car in front of you passes that point. You should be able to count slowly to three in that time. This should leave enough space between you and the vehicle in front of you. In winter weather conditions, it is wise to leave even more time between you and the leading vehicle to create a longer, safer stopping distance.

Traffic Accident Procedures

If a crash occurs with another vehicle, stop and take a deep breath. Pull over if you can. Make sure everyone is okay and assess the damage. If there are injuries or if you are stuck in a ditch, call 911. Take pictures and exchange information with the other driver. In addition, report the accident to the police, even if the damage seems minor. It could be important to have the police report, should the other driver or their insurance disagree with yours over who is at fault.

We hope this information helps you stay safe and feel prepared for winter driving in Iowa.