You know that the weather can change on a dime in Colorado. What happens when you’re driving, and you encounter a sudden snow or ice storm? If another driver hits your vehicle, are they blameless because the weather took a turn for the worse?
All drivers owe each other a duty of care
Drivers have a legal duty of care that they owe to other vehicles and pedestrians. You accomplish this duty by obeying traffic signals and halting at stop signs. You follow the speed limit and avoid taking unnecessary risks. When another driver blows through a red light or fails to yield to oncoming traffic, it’s pretty clear that the driver has violated this duty of care and may have acted negligently.
But what happens if, for example, a driver is traveling at the posted speed limit of 65 mph in the middle of a snowstorm and cannot stop in time, causing an accident? The driver was obeying the speed limit, right?
The fact is a driver’s duty of care changes with the weather conditions. You should adjust your driving habits to account for the weather. Speed limits are set under the presumption that people are driving in dry and clear conditions. You’d be hard-pressed to argue that traveling at 65 mph when visibility is limited is reasonable. Other adjustments drivers should make during bad weather include:
- Using headlights
- Using windshield wipers
- Ensuring their tires are properly-suited to road conditions
- Increasing their following distance
A driver is not automatically negligent for failing to take proper precautions. In theory, a storm could literally come out of nowhere, giving a driver no chance to adjust to the sudden change in driving conditions. However, failing to exercise caution could be a significant factor when determining liability for an accident.