An accident on Interstate 78 in Pennsylvania last year left three people dead and many more injured. CNN reported on the incident, which was described as a deadly pileup caused by bad weather. One witness told CNN that: "It was definitely a whiteout, I couldn't see any further than probably two city blocks... I saw brake lights and pulled off to the side. Somebody hit me when I was parked in the shoulder." In total, around 60 vehicles were involved in the accident on the Interstate.
Interstates are one of two places where pileup accidents are especially likely to occur during snowstorms and when the roads are icy. The other high-risk place is an intersection.
Intersections and interstates both involve many cars traveling together in close proximity. This closeness facilitates a chain reaction occurring if even one car loses control because of ice. The risk of a pileup is also exacerbated if there is snow as well as ice because motorists may not see that there are other impaired cars in their path as they come upon a car accident.
For many drivers, pileup accidents at intersections or on interstates can be a very frightening because you can see this kind of accident coming. It is not a surprise as your vehicle hits a patch of ice and starts to spin out and there is nothing you can do to stop it. As you are trapped inside of your vehicle and are realizing you have no control because you are spinning out, there are a few ways you can try to protect yourself.
One option you have is to try to steer to avoid striking other cars. If your rear wheels are skidding, for example, you can try to turn the steering wheel in the direction you want the car to go. If you have space around you, you could potentially steer your car away from objects in front of you, even if you've largely lost control of the vehicle.
Unfortunately, on many interstates and at many intersections, you do not have space and there is nowhere to go. You cannot steer a car out of harms way if there is no place to go where you won't hit someone. If you know you are about to crash and there is nothing that you can do about it, you can at least try to reduce the chances the crash will injure you. You can do this by:
- Facing forward: Adjust your posture so you are sitting square against the back of your seat with your head facing straight forward. Assuming this position can allow you to distribute the force of the crash impact over the largest possible area.
- Tighten your muscles. Bracing yourself by tightening your muscles can also help prepare you to ready your body for the impact.
- Keep your wrists flat, not bent. You may want to hold onto the steering wheel firmly, but should be aware that the air bag may deploy depending upon the impact.
If you sustain serious injuries despite your best efforts, you should talk with an attorney about what your rights are for holding motorists accountable for the chain reaction accident.