Ohio Winter Driving Laws and Rights

Winter Driving Tips
Winter Driving Tips

Driving in Ohio in the winter is no joke. The Buckeye State consistently ranks as the state with the most winter driving fatalities, an average of 86 deaths per year. Federal statistics also show that accidents that happen on snowy, slushy, or icy roads account for 24 percent of weather-related traffic accidents. In this post, we will go over laws you need to know for winter driving in Ohio and some winter driving tips so you can stay as safe as possible on the roads this winter.

Drivers Must Clear The Snow Off Their Cars Before Hitting the Road

In addition to your windows, you are required to clear snow off your vehicle’s head and taillights, and license plate. There are no rules against driving with snow on the hood, roof, or trunk in Ohio. But, keep in mind, if your vehicle becomes a risk to others on the road, you may be liable for any incident.

Headlights On

Ohio law also requires drivers to have their headlights on whenever their windshield wipers are on. If your windshield wipers are on to wipe away light snow, slush, or freezing rain, don’t forget to turn your headlights on, too.

Pay Attention to Snow Emergencies

Under Ohio law, sheriffs monitor snow conditions and declare snow emergencies when they determine that the use of highways and roadways by motorists is a threat to safety. 

Level 1 Snow Emergency

  1. Accumulated, blowing and drifting snow has caused roadways to become hazardous. Roads may be icy.
  2. Motorists are urged to drive with caution.
  3. No roadways are closed, but officials discourage unnecessary travel.

Level 2 Snow Emergency 

  1. Roads have been deemed hazardous from accumulated snow and ice, and you should only drive if absolutely necessary. 
  2. Roadways may be very icy.
  3. Employees are urged to contact their employers during level two snow emergencies to see if they should report to work.

Level 3 Snow Emergency

  1. Ice and blowing snow have created extremely hazardous road conditions with low visibility and extremely low temperatures.
  2. County roads are closed to all but emergency and essential personnel.
  3. Nobody should be on the roads unless absolutely necessary. Violators could be arrested.
  4. Employees should contact their employers to see if they should go to work. 

How to Drive in Snow

  • Follow these expert tips to stay safe:
  • Stay home: First and foremost, you should only venture out if necessary. 
  • Drive slowly: Give yourself more time to get to your destination so you can take it slow.
  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly: Apply the gas slowly to regain traction and avoid skidding. Don’t try to move in a hurry and take extra time to slow down for a stop sign, crosswalk, stoplight or other hazards. 
  • Increase your following distance: Aim for five to six seconds to give yourself enough distance to stop safely.
  • Pump your breaks: Never slam on the breaks when winter driving. Instead, pump them slightly to avoid skidding.
  • Take your time going up hills: If you apply extra gas on snow-covered roads, your wheels will spin. Also, try to never stop while going up a hill.
  • Be aware of black ice: Roads that seem dry may actually be slippery and hazardous. You should always slow down when approaching intersections, off-ramps, bridges or shaded areas because these are all hot spots for black ice.  

Winterize Your Car

  • Winterizing your car is vital in order to stay safe on the roads this winter. Follow these steps:
  • Ensure all tires are adequately inflated and have sufficient tread.
  • Test your car’s battery.
  • Be sure you always have at least a half tank of fuel.
  • Keep an emergency kit in your car with cold-weather gear, a flashlight, a glass scraper, jumper cables, blankets, extra food and water, and important medications.
  • Check out the best cars for snow and ice driving to keep your family safe.

Commercial Driving in Snow and Ice

Commercial drivers must follow all the above tips for safe winter driving. For both commercial drivers and drivers sharing the road with semis and trucks, it’s vital to pay attention and take it slow. 

A driver’s braking ability becomes severely impaired during winter conditions. On icy roads, it takes up to 10 times longer to stop a commercial truck.

Involved in a Winter Driving Accident?

Thousands of Ohioans are involved in winter driving accidents every year, if you or a loved one is one of them, contact an auto accident attorney ASAP. At Friedman, Domiano & Smith Co., LPA., we are experts in getting you the compensation you deserve when you’ve been in a winter accident. 

Winter driving can be challenging for Ohio drivers, even those with lots of experience. Freezing temperatures, frequent snow and icy roads are normal hazards. Even the most seasoned driver can be involved in an accident due to winter weather conditions.

This year, the almanac predicts that Ohio will receive more snow than usual and experience some harsh weather, particularly during the beginning of 2020. Fortunately, you can minimize your risk of accidents by taking some simple precautionary steps.

Tire Maintenance

Properly inflated tires grip the road better and last longer than under-inflated ones. If your tires have worn tread, they will be prone to skidding when roads are slick. If possible, invest in tires that are made specifically for winter driving or buy a set of superior all-season tires.

When the cold set in, tire pressure drops, so don’t ignore your car’s warning light. Pump up your tires to the recommended pressure in your driver’s manual.

Driving Speed

Speeding is one of the biggest causes of winter driving accidents, largely because drivers refuse to adjust their speed for the current driving conditions. Snow-packed roads call for a major reduction in speed, one that fits your vehicle. You shouldn’t try and compete with a four-wheel drive vehicle’s speed if you are operating a two-wheel drive car. There is no single safe speed for poor winter driving conditions. Instead, you’ll need to slow down enough to keep maximum tire traction. You will also have to allow for possible black ice and slick overpasses.

Safe Following Distance

As an Ohio driver, you’ve probably seen multiple wintertime accidents, including those caused by following too closely. Braking on slick surfaces requires far more distance than it does on dry pavement. Cars going 35 mph on dry pavement can require up to 97 feet for the driver to brake and the car to stop. That distance can double on wet pavement, triple on snow-packed roads and be multiplied by ten on icy roads. Experienced drivers, particularly during the first snows of the season, can forget this fact and plow into other vehicles or end up in a ditch.

Clean Cars

Drivers are often in a hurry, particularly when they are headed to work in the morning. That’s why you may not do an adequate job of cleaning the snow and ice from your vehicle after a storm. You should take the time to thoroughly scrape and defrost your front and rear windshields. You need to remove the snow from your headlights and brake lights and sweep off any build-up on your bumpers. Don’t forget to brush the snow off the top of your car as well as the hood and the trunk. If you don’t, the snow can easily break free and block your view or the view of a nearby driver. It’s better to be ten minutes late to work than to be involved in an accident.

Safety Kit

Ohio drivers enjoy long stretches of beautiful rural countryside. If you are in a winter accident or have car trouble in these areas, you could be stranded for hours. To protect yourself from the cold and hasten your rescue, you should have the following packed in your car:

  1. Flares to signal your distress
  2. Road cone
  3. Several flashlights and spare batteries
  4. Multiple blankets
  5. Bottled water
  6. Snacks
  7. Phone Charger

While a cell phone can usually summon help, you may lose the signal during a storm. If you are stranded for any period of time, your phone may die. You need multiple ways to summon help. Most importantly, you need to stay warm to avoid hypothermia, which can strike quickly in Ohio’s frigid winter temperatures.

5 Helpful Winter Driving Tips

One of the most important considerations you can make in this cold weather is to stay safe on the road, know how to drive in snow, and take caution when driving on ice.

These winter driving tips exist to keep you safe, so make sure to take this into consideration before you head out in the unbearable cold!

  1. Leave up to three times the amount of normal space you would leave between you and the car in front of you when driving on ice to give plenty of stoppage time.
  2. Remember to brake gently to avoid skidding.  If your wheels start to lock up, take your foot off the brake.
  3. Turning on your lights and ensuring the windshield is clear with plenty of washer fluid to continue to clear it are simple, yet highly important tips for driving in the snow.
  4. Frequently traveled roads, bridges, and overpasses are the roads that will freeze over first. Take extra caution when driving along these roads.
  5. Finally, don’t assume your vehicle can handle all winter weather conditions on its own. Even four-wheel and front-wheel drive vehicles can encounter trouble when driving in snow and ice.

Expert Legal Help

Thousands of Ohio drivers are involved in winter traffic accidents each year. These safe driving tips may prevent you from causing an accident, but you cannot make other motorists drive safely. What would be a small fender bender in July can turn into a major collision in January. If you are the victim of a winter accident, you can sustain serious, long-term injuries that may damage your quality of life.

Anytime you are the victim of a traffic accident, you should consult with an experienced personal injury law firm. In Ohio, that means Friedman, Domiano & Smith Co., LPA. They are experts in getting you the compensation you deserve when you’ve been in a winter accident. Visit their website for more information and take advantage of their Live Chat option.

This winter may be a tough one in Ohio. Avoid driving in snow and ice whenever possible, and drive safely when you do have to hit the road.


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