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Staying Safe When There's Ice on the Road or Sidewalk

Yesterday morning, I was driving along San Anselmo Avenue when I saw an older man walking on the road, toward his driveway. Right as I was about to pass him, he took one step on a patch of black ice, slipped, and took a dramatic fall. He actually told me he thought he might have broken his humerus (probably knew some medicine) so I called 911 and waited until the police came to manage the injured man.

We don't usually expect much in the way of ice here in the temperate Bay Area. But over the past week, temperatures have been hitting record lows, and roads and sidewalks are slick. Icy conditions have also caused several motor vehicle accidents in the Bay Area over the past few days, including on the Highway 280 Eugene A. Doran Memorial Bridge in San Mateo and on the roadway near Five Canyons Parkway and Fairview Avenue in Castro Valley. (Click here for more information) Fortunately, no injuries have been reported yet in those crashes.

As a San Francisco personal injury attorney, I feel compelled to offer the following tips on keeping yourself and others safe and injury-free during a cold snap such as we are experiencing right now.

  • Beware of black ice. So called for the way it blends deceptively into sidewalks and roads, black ice is often invisible until it's too late. Remember, just because a road looks safe, that doesn't mean it is. If you're driving, leave extra room between yourself and the cars in front of you, and avoid sudden maneuvers if you can. Approach your driving - and even your walking - the way you would if it were raining: purposefully and conservatively. If walking, be observant for telltale signs of ice and if in doubt tread carefully and slowly. A fall on ice can happen lightening fast and cause serious harm.
  • Take your time. Make sure to leave plenty of time to get to your destination. If you're not in a hurry, you'll be less likely to get hurt or to hurt someone else. In the midst of the holiday season, it can be easy to feel rushed while juggling holiday parties, shopping and end-of-the-year pressure at work. Don't let these stressors translate to your driving or walking. It might be cliche, but taking the time to look both ways BEFORE you cross the street can absolutely save your life.
  • Mornings are the iciest. Temperatures are still low and the sun isn't yet high enough in the sky to start melting areas that froze the night before. Especially in downtown San Francisco, skyscrapers make streets shady and not easily reached by sunlight. Morning rush hour also means high-volume traffic in much of the Bay Area. Make sure to get plenty of sleep so that you're alert for your commute.
  • No distractions. That means absolutely no texting while driving. There are already so many accidents that occur every day because of distracted drivers, without the added danger of icy roads. The same goes for fiddling with the radio, eating, applying makeup, shaving or anything else you might be tempted to do on the way to and from work. I have personally handled more than a few cases for clients who were struck by someone whose attention was not on the road. Poor driving conditions only underscore the importance of this issue.

According to local news, this cold stretch is likely to continue for at least another couple of days. So bundle up and enjoy this holiday season as safely as possible. Do you have any tips for preventing accidents during this cold weather? Please share in the comments section below.

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