Here's a quick quiz: You're driving your car, the roads are slippery because of blowing snow and ice, and you end up going into the ditch. Can you get a ticket for that?
Surprisingly, the answer is yes.
As State Trooper Jesse Grabow recently explained in his column, you could be issued a citation for failure to drive with due care.
Not every driver realizes this. They blame the snow and ice for causing them to go into the ditch, not their driving. But those drivers are missing a key point: If they had been paying attention to the conditions and driving slower, the accident wouldn't have happened.
"Speeding or traveling too fast for conditions is one of the top contributing factors in fatal and serious injury crashes on our roadways," Grabow said. "In most cases, these tragic crashes are preventable if drivers would just slow down. Losing control of a vehicle is evidence that the driver committed a violation of a traffic or equipment law. When a vehicle loses control and leaves the roadway, a failure to drive with due care is the most common violation cited."
Grabow added that many of the fatal and serious injury crashes that he's investigated are one-vehicle rollovers, or a two-vehicle crash where one of the vehicles was traveling too fast for conditions, lost control and struck another vehicle.
"We all have an obligation to drive with due care and adjust our driving skills to the weather, road and traffic conditions," Grabow said. "This is especially true in the winter when weather and road conditions can frequently change."
Grabow listed other common reasons why drivers lose control on slippery road surfaces:
• Using cruise control on poor road conditions.
• Following too close.
• Distracted or fatigued driving.
• Unsafe tires.
• Driving while impaired.
Winter conditions pose challenges for drivers, but some brush off those challenges like snow off a windshield, believing they are "too good of a driver" to lose control of their vehicle. Some drivers also put too much faith in their four-wheel-drive vehicles, believing they can handle any kind of road conditions at any speed.
Yet every significant snowfall, dozens of vehicles, from small hatchbacks to huge SUVs, end up in the ditch. This winter, drivers should make an extra effort to stop that from happening.
Heed Grabow's advice: "You can avoid a ticket - and a crash - if you simply buckle up, drive at safe speeds, pay attention and always drive sober."