Unfortunately, regardless of weather, most of us must commute daily, driving to and from work in wintry weather and poor road conditions. Since 2009, Ontario has used performance-based contracts to govern agreements with private companies to perform much of the province’s winter road maintenance. In 2015, the Auditor General of Ontario released a report that showed clearing the roads after a storm takes twice as long as before 2009. Some of the private companies have been found to use fewer maintenance vehicles, less ice removal materials and are late in deploying maintenance vehicles to clear the roadways. Our roads are less safe as a result.
Who’s at Fault for Accidents on Poorly Maintained Roads?
One of the private road maintenance companies is under investigation for its failure to properly maintain the roads on New Year’s Day in 2016. The company’s negligence led to 22 car accidents and unsafe driving conditions. This is the third time in under two years that this road maintenance company is under investigation for failing to clear roads in a timely manner and not using enough materials to remove ice.
In the event improper winter road maintenance causes a motor vehicle accident, courts have found that municipalities can be held responsible for damages. The plaintiff must show that the accident’s cause is a result of the municipality’s failure to keep the roads clear and driveable in a reasonable amount of time.
Steps Drivers Should Take in the Event of a Winter Driving Accident
As a driver, you can’t control hazardous road conditions or poor road maintenance. However, you can take steps to ensure your safety and that of your passengers when you travel this winter.
Prepare your Car, Van, SUV, or Truck Properly for Winter Driving
Before winter’s cold and snow makes maintenance even more difficult, make sure your vehicle is ready for the driving conditions in your area.
- Maintain your vehicle. Be sure your tires, battery, lights, wipers and ice-melting windshield washer fluid. Your gas tanks should always be at least half full and your windows should be clear frost, fog, snow and ice.
- Keep a winter survival kit in each vehicle. The kit should include: a blanket, ice scraper, shovel, booster cables, extra clothing, bottled water, non-perishable snacks, a flashlight, road flares, a first aid kit and sand for traction.
- Use mobile devices for safety. Charge your mobile phone and keep an external battery charger in the car. Drive where you have reliable service, but do not use mobile devices while driving.
- Check weather and road conditions before you drive. Call 511 or visit ontario.ca/511 for the latest road condition updates.
- Notify a loved one that you’re driving. Let your loved one know when you’re leaving and when you expect to arrive to arrive at your destination. Let that person know when you’ve arrived safely.
- Drive safely. Allow extra space between vehicles when driving, slow down, don’t use cruise control, practice with your car’s braking system and watch out for emergency or road maintenance vehicles.
Know What to do if You Have a Winter Car Accident
If you do have a winter driving accident, treat the scene like any other motor vehicle accident, but keep winter safety precautions in mind.
- Be responsible. Don’t leave the scene. Call emergency services or local police and notify your insurance provider as soon as possible.
- Be safe. Don’t move injured people. Do move vehicles off the roadways, if possible.
- Take notes. Record all drivers’ names, contact information, and vehicle information. Note passengers’ and witness’s names and contact information. Write down what happened to cause the accident. Take photos of your vehicle and any other vehicles involved, the accident scene including the road conditions and any landmarks, so that it will be clear from the photos where on the roadway the accident occurred.
- Keep winter conditions in mind. Remain in your vehicle and make it visible with flares or road signs. Don’t run the car’s motor constantly and make sure the exhaust pipe is clear of snow.
Once everyone is safe and warm, it’s time to consider seeking legal advice about the next steps you should take to deal with your winter driving accident. The legal experts at Mackesy Smye specialize in helping car accident victims get the compensation they deserve for winter auto accident injuries.
Click the button below to set up your free consultation with one of our personal injury lawyers. We will provide you with all the information you need to decide how to proceed and what steps to take.