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Winter-weather car accidents in Oregon (and around the country) claim over 1,300 lives and injure more than 116,800 road users every year according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. When roads become coated in slush, ice, or snow, driving safely — and watching out for other reckless, impaired, or dangerous drivers on the road — becomes immensely more difficult. While these numbers are sobering, the good news is that there are steps you can take to greatly reduce your chances of being involved in a winter crash. 

Below, we’ll share how reckless driving in Oregon can become extremely dangerous in winter conditions, as well as how to use a few valuable tips to protect yourself on the road when snowy weather hits. 

Why Winter Roads Require Extra Diligence

Driving on icy or snowy roads requires caution, patience, and focus. The wheels on your vehicle use friction (or traction) to move you forward and steer your vehicle exactly where you want it to go. But when ice or snow accumulates on roadways — even if it’s just a few small flurries or icy patches — your tires’ traction is reduced which decreases the level of control you wield behind the wheel. Pair a loss of traction with the velocity of your vehicle and you have a recipe for sliding, skidding, or drifting. Knowing this, many drivers reduce their speeds, make extra-careful turns, or simply avoid the roads all together until plowing and salting are complete. However, reckless drivers who do not exercise caution, patience, and focus in winter weather conditions, can pose a serious threat to themselves and anyone else on the road. 

What is Reckless Driving in Oregon?

By definition, according to Oregon law, reckless driving is when a person recklessly drives a vehicle upon a highway or other premises in a manner that endangers the safety of persons or property. In Oregon, reckless driving punishment is a Class A Misdemeanor — the most serious class of misdemeanors —  which means it carries a sentence of up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of up to $6,250. It’s also a punishment that sticks with the criminal long after the fine is paid or the jail time is served. Class A misdemeanors involving traffic violations aren’t often cleared from your public record, making it more difficult to pass background checks or apply for public assistance. 

How to Avoid Reckless Driving During an Oregon Winter

The only guaranteed way to avoid becoming a victim of a reckless driver is to not drive in unsafe conditions whenever possible. 

In the same way, the best way to avoid becoming a reckless driver yourself in Oregon is to exercise caution, patience, and focus when driving — especially in conditions where drivers’ ability to control their vehicle or see the roadway may be impaired. And even if you feel confident driving in Oregon’s wintry weather, always reduce your speed and be extra vigilant when driving on snow or ice. How much over the speed limit is technically reckless driving speed? That answer varies. However, high speeds are often a central component to many reckless driving incidents. Failure to slow down in the snow or ice could result in unintended reckless driving that puts you and others at risk for a car accident.

If you must drive in the snow or ice, follow these tips: 

Winter Weather Driving Tips for Oregon

  • Motorists should obey speed limits and maintain safe distances at all times, but giving other vehicles ample room and slowing down is especially important when weather conditions are treacherous.
  • Drivers should also check their local weather forecasts before setting out and allow extra time to complete their journeys when road conditions are expected to be poor. When progress is slow and late arrival is likely, motorists should resist the urge to make up for lost time if the road opens up. 
  • Tire pressures should be checked frequently during the winter months as they fall when temperatures drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and safety features like anti-lock braking and traction control systems should be monitored as their frequent activation is a sign that motorists are driving dangerously.
  • Reckless driving speed doesn’t just apply to speeds that are too fast; driving too slowly can be almost as dangerous as speeding during the winter months as it creates a swerving hazard and makes rear-end collisions more likely. In areas of the state that experience heavy snowfall, drivers should consider investing in a set of winter tires. These tires are made of a softer rubber compound and feature wider tread patterns for better traction on snow.

Are you a Victim of an Accident During Winter Weather?

If you’ve been injured in a winter car accident that you believe was a case of reckless driving in Oregon, our reckless driving attorneys are here to offer a free case evaluation. Our law firm can seek to obtain evidence of negligence by checking police and weather reports and having the vehicles involved in your accident inspected. Reports can reveal the road conditions at the time of the crash and the speeds involved, and vehicle inspections could uncover signs of poor maintenance, defective safety systems, or bald tires. All of these pieces of evidence can help build the case that your accident could have been prevented if not for reckless driving. 

To start your case evaluation, contact Swanson Lathan Prestwich, PC. Our team of attorneys has years of experience with reckless driving cases and will tirelessly fight for your right to justice.