What Is the Standard of Care in Snowy or Icy Weather?
It looks like it could be a long winter in New Jersey. It’s just the beginning of November and there’s already been snow on the ground. In New Jersey and across the northeast, that means that driving becomes a completely different experience. Statistics show that, while there are fewer people on the roads in the winter, the accident rate is actually higher. Does the standard of care change when you’re driving on a snowy or icy road? Do drivers have a duty to remove snow or ice from their vehicles or take other precautions to minimize the risk of an accident in winter weather?
The Standard of Care When Driving in Winter Weather
The standard of care required of every motorist is the same, regardless of whether it’s summer or winter—anyone operating a motor vehicle must use the same level of care that a reasonable person would under the circumstances. Because the circumstances are different in the winter than in the summer, though, the actual care required of a driver will also be different.
New Jersey law does not identify specific behaviors that drivers must engage in when driving in snowy or icy conditions. Instead, in the aftermath of an accident, a jury will look at what the driver was doing and make a determination as to whether or not it was reasonable. Some of the changes a jury might expect a driver to make in winter weather could include:
- Operating the vehicle at a slower speed
- Allowing more distance for stopping at a light/sign or behind another vehicle
- Waiting for more clearance before pulling out from a stop sign
Must a Driver Take Specific Actions with Respect to His or Her Vehicle?
Under New Jersey law, motorists are required to remove accumulations of snow and ice from the hood, roof and windshield of a vehicle before going out on the road. The potential fines run from $25 to $1,000 per incident. In addition, the failure to remove snow or ice, or to wait until windows are defrosted may be considered unreasonable by a jury.
Contact the Law Office of Howard D. Popper
At the Law Offices of Howard D. Popper, we can help protect your rights. For a free initial consultation to discuss your options after any type of personal injury, including a motor vehicle accident, contact our office online or call 973-993-8787 to set up an appointment. We have offices in Morristown and Newton.
We handle all personal injury claims on a contingent fee basis. You won’t pay any attorney fees unless we recover damages for your losses.