Three-year average shows the Great Lake State is deadlier than any other in winter
Michigan motorists have a very good reason to be glad that winter is winding down: Our state leads the nation in winter weather-related traffic fatalities.
Data compiled by AAA Michigan shows that Michigan averaged 96 fatalities due to winter weather between 2011 and 2013, beating every other state during that same period.
While most drivers understand that driving in inclement weather is dangerous, winter weather can cause road conditions to worsen in deceptive ways. For instance, when the temperature drops just below freezing, motorists may think the road is wet when it's actually covered in a layer of ice.
Many vehicles experience mechanical issues due to cold weather, which can contribute to accidents. Winter also means shorter days and longer nights - which, in turn, leads to more drivers on the road in dangerous low-light conditions.
All drivers are at risk for winter weather-related accidents, but younger, less experienced drivers are in the greatest amount of danger. Drivers aged 16 to 24 had more fatalities than any other age group.
Safe driving becomes critically important in inclement weather
Motorists in Michigan have a legal responsibility to be conscious of the road due to winter weather and adjust their driving accordingly. Snow, slush and ice all contribute to dangerous conditions that can increase the risk of a car accident.
Drivers who exceed a reasonable speed for the conditions - even if they stay under the posted speed limit - may be ticketed for driving too fast. Driving too fast for the conditions is also a type of negligence that could be used to prove a driver's liability in a personal injury lawsuit resulting from an accident.
In addition to slowing down, it's important to maintain a safe following distance during winter weather. Motorists may need to swerve or change speeds suddenly to avoid a hazard, and it can be difficult to stop when the roadway is covered in snow and ice. Follow too closely, and you may be involved in - and at fault for - a rear-end collision.
Finally, it's important to keep in mind that other risky driving behaviors can compound the risk of winter weather. Distracted driving, for instance, is unsafe at any time, but it's even more dangerous during the winter when there's a constant need to adjust to changing conditions.
Staying safe in the winter means investing in snow tires, properly winterizing your vehicle, slowing down and making sure you're wearing your seatbelt. And if you are involved in an accident caused by a driver who didn't appropriately adjust to the conditions, you'll need an experienced advocate to help you hold that driver accountable.