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Icy roads? But I never saw it coming!

The Carolina Law Group > Blog  > Icy roads? But I never saw it coming!

Icy roads? But I never saw it coming!

Mitchell Byrd, Attorney, Greenville, SC

Mitchell Byrd | Attorney, Carolina Law Group

In today’s modern society, I find it somewhat amazing that so many people choose to put not only their lives, but the lives of others at risk by voluntarily driving in terrible weather conditions. Even if you don’t have cable TV, the vast majority of citizens are aware of impending bad weather, especially when it comes to snow and ice. Speaking from ongoing experience, everywhere I have turned in the last few days I have been bombarded with weather updates, school closings, and every kind of warning whatsoever regarding the icy weather. Twitter, Facebook, television…there’s really no excuse for not knowing about bad weather.

So when these dangerous icy conditions kick up, it really blows me away to see all the near misses and auto collisions that could have been easily avoided. Forget about the weather man’s ominous forecast — common sense should tell you not to voluntarily drive when the roads are covered in snow and ice. So why take the chance? Car accidents are frequently caused by negligent drivers. But just what is negligence? And how do icy road conditions change whether an automobile driver was negligent when an accident occurs?

Negligence is basically carelessness. As a driver, you have a duty not to be careless or negligent in the operation of your motor vehicle. We frequently see negligent drivers being issued traffic citations for “Driving Too Fast For Conditions.” Essentially, they shouldn’t have been driving so fast and as a result, they negligently caused an automobile accident. But what about a driver who is driving extremely slowly, carefully taps his breaks, and then unfortunately slides down an icy side street, causing a wreck and injuring another motorist? Was he driving too fast for conditions? Was he being negligent or careless? It certainly isn’t as obvious as the typical “read end” collision scenario.

I would argue that the driver who slides down an icy side street and causes a wreck might not just be negligent, but could be grossly negligent, unless there was truly some good reason for him to have been driving in the first place. After a huge snow or ice storm, there really is no excuse to blame the icy conditions for the accident. The icy conditions are obviously a hazard, especially on side streets or country roads that have not been treated with salt or plowed. In today’s information-heavy world, it is extremely rare that this driver would not have had plenty of notice of the impending weather conditions and perhaps made other arrangements so that driving would not be necessary. If this driver was truly observant of his duty to not to negligently operate a motor vehicle, then he shouldn’t have even attempted to operate the motor vehicle in such a precarious way in the first place.

Sure, there are exceptions to every situation. Maybe the poor driving was necessitated by an emergency. Quite frequently, employees must show up for work despite the roads being caked with ice and snow. No one wants to lose their job because of “mother nature.” But unless it is absolutely necessary, put your egos aside, folks. No one is a good enough driver that they can adequately control a motor vehicle on icy or snowy road conditions after a storm and before the roads have been salted or plowed. The danger that icy roads pose to the average driver or passenger is obvious. And it doesn’t just affect the elderly or sick. Car wrecks caused by icy roads can kill anyone at any time, across the board. It seems to me that it is clearly foreseeable that icy road conditions could prevent you from doing your duty as a citizen to avoid negligently causing a car accident.

Folks, we love being part of and helping the upstate community. And if you are the victim of someone else’s negligent driving, we will be glad to help you with your case. But during these times of inclement weather, please take extra care of yourself and your passengers. Winter weather is beautiful, but it can be treacherous. Think hard about whether it is absolutely necessary to drive right after a snow or ice storm. Don’t take unnecessary risks behind the wheel. Because when it comes to icy road conditions, even if you do everything right, you could still negligently injure or even kill another motorist.


Mitchell Byrd received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Wofford College in 2000. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 2004, where he served on the American Bar Association Real Property, Probate, and Trust Journal. He was also an active member of the University of South Carolina Moot Court Bar. Since being sworn into the South Carolina Bar in 2004, Mr. Byrd has focused on litigation, within the criminal justice system as an economics crime prosecutor for the Thirteenth Circuit Solicitor’s Office and also within the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation system.

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