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How to Recognize Unsafe or Dangerous Road Conditions


Car accidents cause serious injuries and deaths in Ottawa every year. According to the City of Ottawa’s annual safety report for 2020, a total of 18 victims lost their lives in traffic accidents in the city. While most vehicle collisions stem from human errors and driver mistakes, some are caused by road hazards and dangerous conditions. Learn how to recognize an unsafe roadway to decrease your risk of getting into a car accident.

Check the Weather

If you are planning on taking a road trip or long drive, keep an eye on the weather. Use your local news station or the internet to gauge what the weather will look like on the road and in your destination city. Pay attention to traffic conditions, as well, such as roads or bridges that are closed due to construction or bad weather. If a storm or other dangerous conditions are predicted, stay home. If you must travel, make sure you are adequately prepared for the trip by inspecting your vehicle, stocking it with emergency supplies and mapping the safest route possible.

Be Wary of Visibility Issues

One of the main dangers associated with bad weather is reduced visibility for drivers. Be extra cautious in any type of weather that impacts your view of the road. This includes heavy rain, snow, sleet, hail and fog. In bad weather, reduce your speed and increase your following distance to prevent rear-end collisions. Be prepared to hit your brakes at a moment’s notice.

Turn your headlights on in a storm to improve visibility and make yourself more visible to other drivers around you. When driving in fog, use your low beams to avoid the light reflecting off the water particles and creating a glare. Always use your headlights at night (between dusk and dawn) for visibility.

Go Slow in Snow

On average, Ottawa sees almost six feet of snowfall per year. If you find yourself driving in a snowstorm or shortly after it snowed, alter your driving practices to accommodate slick and icy road conditions. Reduce your speed, avoid making jerking movements with the wheel and don’t slam on the brakes. 

Keep a safe following distance and look as far down the road as you can for potential hazards, such as a car accident or a stopped car with its hazards on. If you feel your car beginning to skid on snow or ice, don’t hit the brakes. Ease off the gas and turn the steering wheel in the same direction that your car is sliding. Assess your traction frequently while you drive to avoid sliding out of control.

Prevent Hydroplaning

Hydroplaning is when your vehicle slides or skids out of control when it hits a puddle or patch of ice. If you notice the road is wet, covered in snow, icy or has a layer of other debris, remove your foot from the gas to slowly reduce your speed. Avoid overly aggressive turning and slamming on the brakes, as this could cause your vehicle to skid. Operate your car in a smooth and controlled manner. Keep your speed at a safe level and make any turns gently. If you start to hydroplane, steer lightly in the direction that you wish to go until you regain control of the vehicle. 

Pay Attention to the Road Surface

Even in good weather, a road may contain dangerous defects and hazards, such as a pothole, loose gravel, uneven shoulder, storm debris, snowplow, construction zone or missing guardrail. Always pay attention to the road to keep a lookout for potential hazards while you drive. If you are approaching a road defect, slow down and proceed with caution. If you don’t think you can safely get past the hazard, report it to the City of Ottawa to make a maintenance request.

Road maintenance is the city’s responsibility. If you get injured in a car accident because of an unsafe or dangerous road condition that should have been prevented, the city might be legally liable for your damage. Contact a car accident lawyer in Ottawa to discuss your case further.