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Preparing for Winter Driving: Preventing Oregon Auto Accidents

While summer is a wonderful season in Oregon, many people look forward to the cooler weather of Autumn. That is especially true this year, after several areas experienced exceptionally high temperatures. In fact, Portland set a record for its hottest month ever recorded, going all the way back to 1940! Thus, it’s not surprising to hear many Oregonians state that fall is their favorite season of the year.  

However, like night follows day, we know winter will follow fall. There are dozens of amazing ways to enjoy winter in Oregon. However, winter also provides unique challenges for drivers. These challenges can vary, given the great diversity of our state. If you live near the ocean, you may have chilly, foggy days. If you live in the east, or near the Cascades, you may experience extreme ice and snow. 

In this article, recognizing that winter is approaching, we will share a few tips on preventing auto accidents in Oregon winters. 

How Winter Impacts Oregon Drivers 

Snowy, icy pavement is one of the greatest safety challenges a driver can face. When the roads are iced over, other factors like air temperatures, wind speed, visibility, and precipitation are usually impacted as well, making conditions for safe driving even more unfavorable. 

Distracted driving during this season becomes even more dangerous, as does drunk driving -and both distracted and drunk driving are at year-round highs in winter. 

Slushy, icy, snowy roads also make it more difficult for even the most attentive drivers to avoid sliding, skidding, or hydroplaning, though. Defensive driving is paramount in avoiding other vehicles that may be skidding or sliding on slick roads. 

Certain weather conditions, in particular, pose unique driving challenges – especially fog and snow. 


Fog can be an unexpected and silent killer. It sometimes appears seemingly out of nowhere, robbing us of visibility. The dangers are apparent. If you can’t see the cars in front of you, one may stop, resulting in you crashing into it from behind. 

Similarly, if someone behind you does not know you are stopping or slowing, they might strike you from behind. Sometimes, deadly chain reactions occur. For example, in October, eight people died in Louisiana when at least 168 vehicles were involved in chain reaction interstate crashes caused by fog.

To increase safety while driving in fog, the National Weather Service offers some tips, some of which follow:

  • Slow down.
  • Turn on your headlights, but use low beams only. High beams will cause glare, or can even result in situational night blindness.
  • Turn on windshield wipers.
  • If you live in an area with frequent fog, consider installing fog lights. Use your fog lights if you have them.
  • If visibility is very poor, find a safe place to pull into and stop, such as a parking lot or business.
  • Leave extra space between cars.
  • If you pull over, pull as far over as you can, stop, and activate your hazard lights. Turn the other lights off. Remove your foot from the brake pedal so that you do not illuminate taillights, which might create the illusion to other drivers that you are driving.

It is also helpful to note that both weather and governmental websites often issue fog warnings. Reviewing this information can help you avoid driving during dangerous conditions. 


Driving in snow can be a significant challenge. Car and Driver has put together a number of helpful tips for driving safely in the snow. Most importantly, the publication suggests that the secret is to do everything, from steering to braking and accelerating, as smoothly and gradually as possible. The reason is that the grip your tires have on the road is limited, and sudden or jerky movements can cause traction to be lost. Some of Car and Driver’s other suggestions follow: 

  • Be very alert, which includes looking far ahead and paying attention to the stability control system in your car, if you have one.
  • If you start skidding, look in the direction you want to go.
  • Do not feel overly secure because you have all-wheel drive. It helps with acceleration, but not stopping and turning.
  • Understand the rules of braking and know how to handle a skid. The referenced Car and Driver article is a great place to learn.
  • Use snow tires

Preventative Measures that Increase Winter Road Safety 

In order to prevent an auto accident, Oregon drivers should take winter road safety seriously. Many Oregon drivers know how to drive in the rain and assume they’ll also safely navigate the road when that rain freezes into snow. The following measures can help drivers avoid accidents as they drive through an Oregon winter: 

Mind your speed 

Speeding is dangerous year-round. Add icy patches to the mix, and the act of speeding quickly turns into a recipe for automotive disaster. Slow down when driving in adverse weather conditions, and take care to brake as gradually as possible. 

Know your tires 

As Oregon’s fall cools off into winter, it’s the ideal time to ensure that all four tires on your vehicle are fully inflated, and that brakes and brake pads are functioning as expected. If you’re starting to hear your brakes squeal in ways they hadn’t before, take the car in for a brake inspection before the temperature drops much more. 

Don’t drink and drive 

It goes without saying, but as holiday parties and gatherings ramp up and the liquor flows, drunk driving becomes a much more pressing problem – especially on dangerous winter roads. 

Driving while under the influence (not just of alcohol, but of marijuana, or any other substance that inhibits one’s judgment) reduces reaction time and lowers inhibitions, meaning someone may misjudge how bad the road is, their own abilities, or simply not realize the present danger. 

If you’re going to be drinking, consider enlisting the help of a rideshare service, or having a designated sober driver handle the roads for you. 

Leave ample following distance 

Even if you are a seasoned Oregon winter driving pro, not everyone else on the road may be. Leave additional space between your car and the one in front of you. Doing so will give you some much-needed extra reaction and stopping time in the event of sudden stops, skidding, or loss of control, preventing you from accidentally rear-ending the driver in front of you. 

Your Year Round Oregon Auto Accident Attorneys

Some drivers are conscientious and take precautions when driving in winter conditions. Unfortunately, some people ignore their surroundings and drive dangerously. The dangerous and unpredictable nature of winter driving in Oregon may leave you with questions about your auto accident, including who was at fault, what to do next, and what your rights are.

The experienced auto accident attorneys at Nelson McNeil Rayfield are here to answer those questions in a free consultation. We can help you investigate your case and hold the wrongdoers accountable.