Navigating Icy Roads: Interstate 64/Afton Mountain Crash

It seems that winter may have arrived early to Central Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley.  When unexpected bad weather strikes, hazardous road conditions frequently catch drivers off guard. What are the best tips for staying safe on the roadways if you encounter hazardous road conditions?  Of course, the best course of action is to stay off the roads.  But, sometimes staying off the roadway is not not a possibility.  Unfortunately, Central Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley have seen numerous hazardous weather crashes, including the November 17 tractor trailer and Greyhound bus crash on Interstate 64 on Afton Mountain.

NBC 29 reported that on November 17th, icy roads and fog on Interstate 64 on Afton Mountain caused a crash between a tractor trailer and a passenger bus.  It is being reported that there multiple injuries as a result of this crash. The final report of the Virginia State Police indicates the following:

“Heavy fog and icy road conditions are to blame for a two-vehicle crash on Afton Mountain early Sunday morning.At 4:37 a.m. Sunday (Nov. 17), Virginia State Police Trooper L.G. Pingley responded to the crash in the eastbound lanes of Interstate 64 at the 100 mile marker in Nelson County at the Augusta County line.A tractor-trailer was traveling east on I-64, when the driver lost control and the tractor-trailer overturned across the roadway. A chartered bus traveling in the eastbound lane was unable to avoid the tractor-trailer and struck it. The impact of the crash split the tractor-trailer in half. The bus ran off the right side of the highway and came to rest against the guardrail.The Silver Lining Tours bus had a driver and more than 20 passengers on board at the time of the crash. The bus company is located out of Troy, Va. You will need to contact the company for information on the bus’ destination.The tractor-trailer driver, James Proffitt, 44, of Suffolk, Va., was transported to UVA Medical Center in Charlottesville for treatment of serious, but non-life threatening, injuries.The driver of the bus, Andrew L. Burruss, 62, of Keswick, Va., was also transported to UVA Medical Center for treatment of non-life threatening injuries.Proffitt and Burruss were among 15 individuals transported to UVA Medical Center for treatment. Four others were transported to Augusta Health Medical Center for treatment. There are no reported fatalities at this time. Injuries range from serious to minor.The Virginia State Police Motor Carrier Safety Team responded to the scene to assist with the crash investigation. The U.S. Postal Inspector also responded to the scene since the tractor-trailer was loaded with U.S. mail.There were at least seven other minor crashes that occurred in the eastbound lanes of I-64 immediately following the initial crash. None of those crashes involved any injuries.”

Driving on icy roads is difficult enough.  But add fog to the mix and the problem is magnified.  Here are a few tips which may help avoid a collision if you are driving in a hazardous weather situation:

  • Drive slowly. Your tires will have less traction when driving on ice, so SLOW DOWN to account for this.
  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly. To help regain traction and avoid skids, apply the gas gently and slowly. Start slowing down for stoplights early. REMEMBER: IT TAKES MUCH LONGER TO SLOW DOWN ON ICY ROADS.
  • Increase your following distance to five to six seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
  • Brake firmly and steadily. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
  • Don’t stop if you can avoid it. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until traffic starts moving, do it.  This will help to prevent skids and difficulties caused by braking.
  • Don’t try to power up mountains and hills. Applying extra gas on ice-covered roads may make your wheels spin or slide. See if you can gain a little speed before you reach the mountain hill which may help you climb the steeper roadway. As you reach the crest of the hill, you can reduce your speed and then proceed slowly down the other side.
  • Downshift.  If possible, use lower gears when going down the mountain or hill in icy conditions.
  • Entering a curve.  Once you have your car’s speed under control, enter the curve, release the brake, and turn the steering wheel without accelerating.  This will allow your tires’ existing traction to steer your car.  Wait until you are beginning to straighten the wheel before accelerating.
  • Look ahead at where you want to end up.  If there are cars spinning out in front of you, don’t stare at the cars but at any gap where you might want your car to end up.  Staring at something you DON’T want to hit will DOOM you!
  • If you start to slide . . . If you start to slide, knowing which tires started sliding first can be helpful.  If you feel the back of the car start to slide, this is called oversteering.  If this case, look to where you want to go and you will naturally steer in that direction.  If the front tires start sliding and the car feels like it is going to hit the nose on the guardrail, that is called understeering.  In this case, stay off the pedals, move the steering wheel back straight, and get the tires to regain grip before accelerating.

 

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Ritchie Law Firm is a personal injury law firm devoted to helping individuals who have suffered serious and catastrophic injuries or lost a loved one as a result of someone else’s negligence. Ritchie Law Firm serves all of Virginia, while helping clients in cities and surrounding areas of Harrisonburg, Charlottesville, Staunton, and Winchester also serves clients in West Virginia, including Martinsburg, WV.

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