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Preparing for winter driving

The Federal Highway Administration states that 22 percent of all accidents are weather-related; that's nearly 1.3 million out of 5.7 million crashes every year. Many drivers in California have to face heavy snows, freezing rains, and floods in the winter, which means an increased risk for car crashes during this most dangerous of seasons.

Ice and black ice are the two major causes of winter crashes. Since the ground takes longer to warm up than air, ice may coat the roads even when freezing temperatures are past; even worse, black ice is harder to detect because of its wet, not icy, appearance. Ice makes steering and braking difficult because the tires don't get a good grip on the road.

Drivers should, first of all, winterize their vehicles. Winterization covers basic tasks like changing the oil, replacing the windshield wipers, and inflating the tires in addition to more specialized tasks like getting snow chains. The battery should also be charged or, if it is more than three years old, replaced. Antifreeze should be half mixed with water to prevent it from freezing; antifreeze testers can measure the concentration.

Besides winterizing, drivers are encouraged to plan their routes, consider road conditions, and give themselves plenty of time. They should also allow themselves more space for braking and never brake suddenly, as this can cause skidding.

Unfortunately, many drivers are negligent and cause accidents, especially rear-end collisions. The victims of such accidents may want to seek legal counsel to determine if they have a valid claim. A lawyer may hire investigators to establish proof of negligence through police reports, eyewitness testimony, and findings at the accident scene. The lawyer may then be able to negotiate an informal settlement with the insurance company or litigate if a settlement can't be reached. Settlements could cover vehicle damage and any medical expenses.

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