Helping Our Region Respond to Last Week's Winter Weather Problems

While the national news focused mainly on the problems in the metro-Atlanta region, here in Northwest Florida we also faced transportation difficulties brought on by unusual winter weather last week. As the weather returns to more familiar fare, our Panama City accident law firm is reflecting on how we can help our community members in the wake of the storm and prevent future winter weather transportation problems.

Walton County Leaders Reflect On Weather-Related Transportation Issues

In large measure, our firm's leadership agrees with the assessment made by Russell Beaty, Walton County's Director of Emergency Management, who told WJHG that our region fared relatively well, but added that we still have room for improvement. According to the Sheriff's Department, Walton County deputies responded to 29 wrecks during the inclement weather. While the office noted that it was "lucky" to have such a relatively low number, we imagine that for each individual involved in a wreck it was at least one accident too many.

We are glad to hear that Beaty is working with a broad group to come up with potential improvements for future emergencies and to encourage the constant communication that helped the county's departments to coordinate efforts last week. We hope similar steps are being taken in Bay County and other parts of our Panhandle region.

Our Role, Part One: Representing the Injured icyroad.jpg

Our firm believes that we can play a dual role in the wake of last week's events. First, we can help those who were injured in roadway collisions that involved a combination of weather-related issues and the negligence of other commuters. While weather may be a factor in many accidents, it does not alleviate the responsibility of those at the wheel; in fact, it makes responsible driving even more important. If someone behaved negligently, including failing to adjust their speed or following distance to the conditions, and this behavior led to an injury-crash, that driver can and should be held accountable.

Anyone injured in such an incident should call and schedule a free meeting with Attorney Pittman. As an experienced accident attorney, he can help you determine whether you have a civil claim and how best to enforce your legal rights.

Our Role, Part Two: Sharing Knowledge, Preventing Future Accidents

Second, as experts in safe commuting, we can play an important preventative role, using this platform to share some of our knowledge about accident prevention. We have written about safe winter-weather commuting before, but it is really a topic that cannot be discussed too much. The How Stuff Works website has a useful piece entitled "5 Common Mistakes You Should Avoid While Driving in the Snow" that provides an overview of some key accident-prevention measures. In brief, the recommendations include:

  • Don't assuming 4-Wheel Drive (or any other automotive technology) makes you invincible – These technologies can give some drivers a false sense of security. Everyone, regardless of what they drive, must take snow and ice seriously.
  • Be prepared – While snow tires may not make sense in Florida, tire maintenance is important in all climates. Don't forgo fixing a defroster or adding antifreeze simply because we're in a relatively warm climate. Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle (kitty litter is a great addition; it can give you traction if you get stuck).
  • Adjust following distance – While it can be tempting to stay right in another vehicle's tracks, following too close is a common cause of accidents. Double (or even triple) following distances. Likewise, leave extra room for stopping at lights or stop signs and slow down to control your vehicle on curves.
  • Don't slam on the brakes – Simply put, it won't help (and it may make things worse). If you begin to skid, ease off the accelerator to slow down; slamming on the brakes can sacrifice any remaining traction. If you must brake and have anti-lock brakes ("ABS"), use steady and even braking pressure. If you don't have ABS, "pump" your brakes by quickly pressing and releasing the pedal.
  • Don't drive too fast – This is the number one error in winter conditions. Slow down to give yourself and your vehicle extra reaction time.

We can't say when, but we will see "winter weather" again. We will also see other weather-related challenges, such as heavy rains. Making safety a priority at both the community and individual level can save lives and prevent terrible injuries.

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