Driving safely can be a challenge in the winter. Cold weather, early sunset and massive snow accumulation can actually make it easy to accidentally break some very simple traffic laws. For example, it is common for headlights and taillights to burn out because the sun sets much earlier and we do a greater amount of driving at night. Another example is how bumpers with integrated steps, such as those on trucks and SUVs, allow snow to accumulate and obscure the vehicle’s license plate. And since nobody likes to be out in the cold for longer than they must, snow often sits on a car without being removed, sometimes covering essential equipment like headlights and tail lights.
We have all experienced one or more of these situations. Usually they are innocent mistakes. But even if you accidentally break the rules, your innocent mistake is often not a defense. Many traffic offenses are strict liability offenses, meaning that your intent is not something that must be proven for you to be found guilty. And even a minor ticket carries a fine that is substantially more expensive than simply replacing a burnt out light bulb.
The worst case scenario is that an accidental violation of a simple traffic rule can lead to more serious charges, such as Operating While under the Influence (OWI). A traffic stop for a serious offense like OWI only needs to be supported by an officer’s reasonable suspicion that any law is being broken. It is therefore not uncommon for a burnt out tail light to be the entire basis for a traffic stop that leads to an OWI arrest and possibly even a conviction.
Safe driving is just as important as legal driving. Following other cars too closely and driving at an excessive speed are illegal but also frequent causes of accidents. In many instances, prosecutors are less likely to negotiate in situations where the defendant caused an accident because of his driving. So even though winter can make driving a challenge, remember to be safe and drive legally. Many things are quite simple and totally within your control. If you decide to drink, drink responsibly. Give yourself extra time to get to your destination, especially if the weather is bad. Check your headlights, tail lights, license lamps, and your registration sticker. License lamps in particular are easy to miss when inspecting your vehicle and every single one must be working correctly. Make sure that your car is in good working order with a good battery, decent tires and good brakes. You should frequently do all of these things, but be especially sure to make an extra check if you plan to go out to dinner or the bars. If you still happen to get into an accident and need a car crash attorney, contact Rizzo & Diersen today!