Driving In Whiteout Conditions Safety Tips

Written by Steven Matz on . Posted in .

Michigan sees an average of about five feet of snow annually, so you are bound to have to travel in the snow from time to time. In fact, due to the lake-effect snow, snow can pile up quickly in just a few hours, leaving you stranded or forced to drive in disastrous conditions.

This situation can be terrifying if you are not prepared. However, if you know what to do, it becomes more manageable. Continue reading for tips on driving during a winter storm on Michigan roads. If you need an experienced car accident attorney, contact Matz Injury Law at 1-866-22Not33.

What is Considered a Whiteout in Michigan?

A whiteout occurs when heavy snow or blowing snow and high winds reduce visibility to virtually zero. The road and the landscape blend together, making it difficult to stay on the road.

Michigan’s lake-effect snow makes it even hard to see in these weather conditions. The entire landscape looks exactly the same, from snow surface cover on the road to the surrounding areas. White and grey storm overcast clouds make matters even worse — even the boundaries between land and sky can be difficult to discern. The disorientation that results can cause serious accidents.

What Should You Do If You Are Driving in a Whiteout in Michigan?

Man driving down a highway covered in snow

Driving through a whiteout can be terrifying. They can come on suddenly, which makes them even more dangerous. If you find yourself driving in whiteout conditions, use these tips to make it through safely.

Slow Down

You should not be traveling the speed limit if you cannot see. Slowing down considerably can help you navigate better and give you more time to react if you realize you have veered off course or something is on the road.

However, reducing your speed should be gradual. If you cannot see because of blizzard conditions, the car behind you probably cannot see very well, either. Sudden drops in speed could cause a crash. Sudden stops can be worse.

Increase Following Distance

Following another driver’s taillights can provide a good visual reference to navigate through the storm in some circumstances. However, be sure that you do not get too close. Stopping quickly may not be an option if the driver in front of you suddenly brakes. Give yourself more time to react to emergency situations by increasing your following distance.

Keep Headlights On

You need to do what you can to increase your visibility in a whiteout. Keeping your headlights on will help others see you better, even if you do not need the lights to navigate through the storm.

Get Off the Road

Try to get off the road as soon as possible when you realize you cannot see through the whiteout. The best way to avoid a crash is to take the nearest exit.

Avoid stopping suddenly or pulling off to the side of the road if you can. Pulling off to the side is dangerous for you and can confuse other drivers. Make a turn at the nearest side road or take the nearest exit. Freeway shoulders are not safe. Sit in a driveway or parking lot if you must.

What Should You Avoid Doing If Caught in a Whiteout?

You should not do a few things during a snow squall. These actions are dangerous for you and can confuse other drivers. These are some of the riskiest actions you can take during extremely heavy snowfall.

Avoid Sudden Stops

Other cars might not be able to see you stop suddenly, and they may not react quickly enough to avoid a crash. If you need to stop, be sure it is gradual and well in advance of wherever you are trying to go.

Do Not Pass or Change Lanes

Stay in your lane while driving through a snow storm system. Staying in your travel lane will help ensure you stay on the road and away from other drivers.

Do Not Drive Distracted

Distracted driving is dangerous, even in perfect conditions. You need your full attention and focus during whiteout conditions. You should be looking for the nearest exit or safe place to park your car during a whiteout — it is no time to make a phone call.

What Should You Do If You Are Stranded in Whiteout Conditions?

Woman on the phone sitting in her car covered in snow

Most savvy Michiganders (or Michiganians, if you prefer) keep winter weather gear in their cars. This is not their first time dealing with winter weather and precipitation. These things often include:

  • Blankets, hats, and gloves
  • Emergency kit
  • Flashlight
  • Cell phone and car charger
  • Water and snacks

Stay in Your Car

Do not try to walk anywhere during a whiteout. Vehicles will not be able to see you, and it is easy to get confused about where you are. Wait for help in your car. Strong winds can also chill you to the bone.

Keep the Car Running Only When Necessary

It is tempting to let the car run while you wait for help because the car has heat. However, running the car while you wait can be dangerous, especially if your vehicle ends up covered in snow. You can be exposed to significant carbon monoxide from the running vehicle, leading to poisoning. Try to run the car for only about 10 minutes each hour for heat. If possible, occasionally clear snow ice from the tailpipe to avoid gas poisoning.

Make Your Car More Visible

Turn on your hazard lights, run the dome light when the car is on, and tie something brightly colored (if you have anything) to your antenna to help increase the visibility of your vehicle. This will help rescuers find your car, even if it is covered in snow.

Remember, being on the shoulder of the road is not safe — if you can move your care elsewhere, do that. If you cannot move the car because of an accident or for any other reason, stay inside the car.

Car Accident Due to Heavy Snow Fall? Call Matz Injury Law

Did someone rear-end you because they could not stop due to icy conditions? Maybe they could not see your car because of the blizzard. In either case, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.

An accident in whiteout conditions can make it harder to gather evidence. So, having a car accident attorney to help is even more important in these situations.

Caught in a Snowstorm? Do Not Panic

Being prepared for the storm is critical. Once you know you are prepared, there is no reason to panic. You just need to travel carefully and wait it out. If you were involved in a car accident because of the storm, contact Matz Injury Law for help at 1-866-22Not33. Our Michigan law office deals with all the legal aspects of your situation so you can focus on recovering from your injuries.

Written By Steven Matz

Steven J. Matz is a founding shareholder of Matz Injury Law. The firm’s concentration is on personal injury litigation, with an emphasis on traumatic brain injury. Mr. Matz earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with high distinction and highest honors in 1974 from the University of Michigan and a Juris Doctor degree in 1977 from The George Washington University National Law Center. Mr. Matz lectures and publishes in a number of areas, including ethics, marketing, trial tactics, and head injury. Mr. Matz has served on the Michigan Association for Justice Executive Board and currently serves the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board as a Hearing Panel Chairman and Master. He is also a member of the State Bar Committee for Character and Fitness.
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