Staying Safe in Freezing Temperatures – How to Avoid Winter Accidents

Residents of the Midwest and Northeast are no strangers to snow, ice and cold. Today’s below-zero temperatures, however, are certainly giving us a run for our money. The injury attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm would like to highlight some of the best ways to stay warm and avoid accidents today as temperatures hit record lows.

In extreme weather such as this, there are many choices we have to make in order to stay safe, and some risks are not immediately obvious. It may be surprising to learn, for example, that home fires occur more frequently in the winter than any other season. In fact, half of all home heating fires in the U.S. happen between December and February, so we are at the height of risk for fires right now.

Fire, Electrical, and Building Safety

Knowing that people often use unsafe heating sources in cold temperatures, the National Fire Protection Association has outlined a few safety rules to help Americans keep warm without risking a fire.

  • If you use a portable generator, keep it outside, away from windows, and as far away from your home as possible
  • Make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are installed and working properly
  • If you have a chimney, make sure it is professionally cleaned and inspected every year
  • Keep ALL flammable home products at least three feet from heat sources (radiators, space heaters, fireplaces, wood stoves, etc.)
  • Only have one heat-producing appliance (like space heaters) plugged into each electrical outlet at a time; any more than one could spark an electrical fires

**Remember: heating equipment is the reported cause of one in every six home fire deaths, so take all measures to protect your home and family.

Highways Closed, Flights Cancelled, Trains Delayed

Though most Midwestern cities are snow removal pros, icy conditions are most perilous for those attempting to commute today. Underneath highway overpasses in particular are causing accidents throughout the Chicago area and into Indiana, where major highways have closed. Interstate 94 is closed in both directions in Indiana all the way to Michigan City; Interstate 65 is shut down in both directions as well.

  • It is extremely important that drivers remember how dangerous black ice is and how to handle a spin-out. Here are some important tips for keeping safe on the roadways:
  • Make sure your cellphone is fully charged, or bring a charger if need be
  • Fill up your gas tank before leaving
  • Keep the following items in your car at all times: booster cables, blankets, first aid kit, flashlights, ice scraper, bag of sand (for traction on ice)
  • While driving – take it slow, wear seatbelts, and go easy on brakes. Anti-lock brakes do not work very well on ice and snow

Don’t stop for or be distracted by accidents. Roadway accidents often occur in multiples and cause secondary crashes, so unless a stranded driver is in obvious immediate danger, keep driving, and call 911 later down the road to alert them of the accident.

If you do become stranded, police urge motorists to stay inside your running vehicle while waiting for help. Standing on the highway not only subjects you to potential frostbite but could also cause additional accidents. Do not attempt to walk to a nearby location or try to push your vehicle out yourself – instead, tie a brightly colored cloth or clothing item to your car to alert responders.

Mass transit, including the Metra and CTA trains, have been significantly delayed and even suspended in some areas. The purple line is not currently running between Evanston and Chicago, and all CTA lines along with nine commuter Metra lines are expecting delays. As of Sunday night about 1,500 flights have been cancelled or delayed out of Midway and O’Hare.

If you do happen to suffer a serious accident, remember that our team of injury lawyers is always here to help, whenever you need us. Our legal consultations are always free of charge, and our lines are open 24/7. Stay safe and warm!

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