Multiple people were injured and at least one person has died after a huge pileup on I-40, near Santa Rosa, New Mexico. The pileup included at least 40 vehicles, according to reports, including many semi-trucks. Weather conditions at the time are thought to have contributed to the pileup, along with driver inattention.
Accidents like this are tragic reminders of how easily numerous lives can be changed by conditions outside of our control. This particular pileup also highlights the importance of winter driving safety, even on major roadways. At Kherkher Garcia, our semi-truck injury lawyers want drivers to be aware of the hazards of winter driving, and know how to stay safe when travelling in poor conditions is necessary. In this article, we will provide an overview of the pileup, discuss the hazards of winter driving, and provide some safety tips for driving in winter weather.
I-40 Pileup Information
The massive pileup on I-40 occurred just before 10:00 a.m. on January 8, 2024. Investigators believe that the initial cause of the pileup was an accident involving a semi-truck and a passenger van. For reasons that are not yet clear, the truck struck the back of the passenger van. Both occupants of the passenger van were seriously injured. The driver later died from his injuries.
Winter weather conditions were affecting travel in that area when the initial accident occurred, but the investigation is still ongoing. In total, more than 40 vehicles ended up being involved, including a number of semi-trucks. The highway was closed at this location for many hours while cleanup progressed. The pileup affected travel in New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma.
Hazards of Winter Driving
Winter brings a picturesque landscape of snow-covered roads, but it also poses significant challenges for drivers, especially on interstates. The combination of icy conditions, reduced visibility, and unpredictable weather can create hazardous situations. In this article, we will explore the various winter driving hazards on interstates and provide essential tips for drivers to ensure a safe journey during the colder months.
- Icy Roads: One of the primary hazards during winter is icy roads, which significantly increase the risk of accidents. Interstate highways, with their high speeds and heavy traffic, amplify the dangers associated with icy conditions. Black ice, in particular, is a silent threat that is often difficult to detect, catching drivers off guard.
- Snow Accumulation: Heavy snowfall can lead to snow-covered roads, affecting visibility and traction. Interstate drivers must be prepared to encounter varying levels of snow accumulation. Snowplows work diligently to clear the roads, but it’s crucial for drivers to adapt their behavior to the existing conditions.
- Reduced Visibility: Winter storms often bring reduced visibility due to snowfall or blowing snow. Poor visibility is a significant hazard on interstates, where high speeds make quick reactions essential. Drivers need to be proactive in adapting their driving habits to ensure safety.
- Freezing Rain and Sleet: Freezing rain and sleet create a hazardous combination by coating roads with a layer of ice. This phenomenon, known as “black ice,” is particularly treacherous as it is nearly invisible and extremely slippery. Interstate drivers must exercise extreme caution when facing freezing rain or sleet.
- Overpasses and Bridges: Elevated structures such as overpasses and bridges pose additional challenges during winter driving. These structures cool faster than the surrounding road, leading to quicker ice formation. Drivers may encounter unexpected patches of ice on these elevated sections, requiring heightened vigilance.
Winter driving on interstates demands a proactive and cautious approach from every driver. Understanding the hazards associated with icy roads, snow accumulation, reduced visibility, freezing rain, and elevated structures is crucial for staying safe during the colder months. Remember, the key to winter driving is preparation
Semi-Truck Injury Lawyers Offer Safety Tips for Winter Driving
Navigating winter weather conditions requires a specific set of safety precautions to ensure drivers stay safe on the roads. Here are some essential safety tips from the injury lawyers at Kherkher Garcia:
Check Weather Conditions
Before hitting the road, check weather forecasts and road conditions. Be aware of any potential snow, ice, or freezing rain in your area and along your route.
Prepare Your Vehicle
Ensuring proper vehicle maintenance, including functional brakes and tires, is crucial. Drivers should also monitor weather forecasts and postpone trips if freezing rain is predicted. Ensure your vehicle is in good condition with proper maintenance, such as:
- Check the battery, brakes, tires, and fluid levels.
- Ensure that windshield wiper blades are in good condition.
- Check the interior heat and defrost settings to ensure they are working.
- Install winter tires for better traction in snow and icy conditions.
- Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid fuel lines freezing.
Clear Snow and Ice
Clearing snow and ice from all vehicle windows is a non-negotiable safety measure. Clearing the windshield is crucial for visibility, and failure to do so may result in fines in some areas. It is also a good idea to clear snow and ice from side windows, mirrors, and the rear windshield. Even a small amount of ice can disrupt visibility and cause blind spots.
Drive a speed that is appropriate for conditions and where you are driving. Approach overpasses and bridges with caution, reducing speed, and avoiding sudden movements. Anticipating the possibility of ice on elevated structures allows drivers to navigate these areas safely. Reduce your speed in winter weather, especially on icy or snow-covered roads.
Use Your Lights
Using headlights, taillights, and turn signals increases visibility for other drivers. Additionally, staying focused on the road and avoiding distractions such as cell phones can help drivers react promptly to changing conditions. In extreme cases, when visibility is severely compromised, pulling off the road in a safe manner until conditions improve is the wisest decision.
Brake gently to avoid skidding. Use a light and steady foot on the brake pedal. If your vehicle has anti-lock brakes (ABS), apply constant pressure and let the system do its job. Maintain a safe following distance to allow for increased stopping distances.
Avoid Cruise Control
Do not use cruise control in winter conditions. It is important to have full control over your acceleration and deceleration.
Listen to weather updates and road condition reports before and during your trip. Be aware of any road closures or advisories. You can visit your state’s Department of Transportation (DOT) website for updates on road conditions or closures.
Watch for Black Ice
Be cautious of black ice, especially on bridges, overpasses, and shaded areas where ice forms more quickly. If you encounter black ice, avoid sudden movements and steer in the direction you want to go.
Keep an Emergency Kit
Pack an emergency kit with essentials such as:
- Extra clothing
- Non-perishable snacks
- Water bottles
- First aid kit
- Road flares
Include items like a snow shovel, ice scraper, and sand or kitty litter for traction.
Plan Your Route
Choose main roads and highways that are more likely to be plowed and treated. Inform someone about your travel plans, especially for longer trips. Remember that accidents can still happen on major roadways, as well as those that have been treated with salt, sand, or brine.
Stay Calm in Skids
If you start to skid, remain calm. Take your foot off the gas and steer in the direction you want to go. Avoid overcorrecting, which can lead to a loss of control.
Use Four-Wheel Drive (4WD) or All-Wheel Drive (AWD) Wisely
If your vehicle has 4WD or AWD, use it judiciously, and understand its limitations. These features can provide additional traction but will not necessarily improve braking on slippery surfaces.
By following these safety tips, drivers can significantly reduce the risk of accidents and ensure a safer winter driving experience. Remember that patience and caution are key when facing challenging winter weather conditions on the road.
Contact Our Semi-Truck Injury Lawyers to Learn More
Winter driving safety is a shared responsibility, and each driver’s commitment to these principles ensures a safer and more secure journey for everyone on the road. Unfortunately, as the I-40 pileup reminds us, accidents can still happen. When an accident does happen, it is important for those injured to remember that they have rights and may be eligible for compensation.
Auto accidents, especially truck accidents, are devastating to those involved. Not only are they traumatic, but they often result in serious financial costs. When someone else’s negligence is to blame, victims deserve the opportunity to pursue justice and recover their financial losses. At Kherkher Garcia, that is what our semi-truck injury lawyers do.
To learn more about how our injury lawyers can help you after an auto accident, contact us for a free consultation. We are available to you via telephone at 713-333-1030, or you can reach out to us online.