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What’s the No. 1 safety tip if you’ve been in a car accident in winter?

November 30, 2015 by Steven M. Gursten

Whether a crash or stranded in snow, MDOT reminds drivers to never get out of the car


We’ve already had our first big snow this year, right before Thanksgiving. It was a blustery reminder that we have an entire Michigan winter ahead of us.

Winter driving poses its own special risks. Those risks can include getting stuck and stranded in snow, or sliding into another car or snowbank.  Given the recent death of the tow truck driver who pulled over to assist a woman with changing a tire on I-96 in Novi and last winter’s deadly chain reaction crash on I-94 in Galesburg, I wanted to share this simple, yet life-saving tip for winter driving:

If you’re stranded on the side of the road, stay in your car and call for help.

I blogged about this tip last year. And as an accident attorney, this tip has personal meaning for me.  An old friend – who was one of the very best accident reconstructionist experts I ever knew – was tragically killed when he was on foot at an accident scene reconstructing the crash.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the Michigan State Police has recently released a similar warning for Michigan drivers, with a video to reiterate the point:

The video may be cute, but MDOT warns us all that busy roads and freeways are no place for pedestrians. Stranded motorists are far better off to wait for help to arrive, then they are to be walking around waiting for the police or tow truck to show up.  Don’t wait outside your car, where the chances of being hit by a speeding car or a car who veers into the shoulder (and especially a far more narrow shoulder than normal because of piled up snow banks), are much higher.

In fact, between 2007 and 2013, there were 105 fatal crashes on freeways involving pedestrians, resulting in 108 deaths, according to State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle.

This safety message also follows the Steer it, Clear It law, which requires motorists to move their vehicle from the main traveled portion of the roadway if they’ve been in a crash where their vehicles can be moved and there are no apparent injuries. When moving your vehicle off the main traveled portion of the roadway, look for a safe refuge, such as a shoulder, emergency lane or median. This is hugely important as well. Recently, I’ve represented people catastrophically injured in two terrible truck accident crashes where, like a moth to a flame, an oncoming truck slams right into a disabled vehicle parked off the road.  Again, get off that main road as quickly as possible.

If you must exit your vehicle, police advise, be extremely aware of passing traffic and move as far away from the roadway as you can.

Other data pulled from a study of fatal crashes involving pedestrians between 2007 and 2013 showed:

  • 81% of the motor vehicle crashes occurred in the roadway.
  • 68% of the car crashes occurred between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m.
  • 57% of these automobile accidents occurred right here in Metro Detroit.
  • 48% of these crashes occurred in clear weather conditions.
  • 25% of the pedestrians who were hit by passing cars or trucks and who were killed had drugs and/or alcohol present in their system.
  • October is the month with the most fatal crashes (14%).
  • Monday is the day of the week with the most car accidents (19%).

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