A three-vehicle crash in Norfolk, Virginia (VA), left a Hampton resident dead and investigators looking at black ice as a contributing factor. The deadly head-on collision happened on the Roland Park overpass on Tidewater Drive.
Norfolk Police received the call about the wreck a little after 6 am on March 13, 2018. Officers determined that the driver of a Cadillac CTS jumped the raised, narrow concrete median on the overpass and struck a Ford Escort. The impact killed the woman driving the Escort and knocked her smaller car back into a pickup truck.
The person behind the wheel of the pickup escaped injury, while the Cadillac driver required hospital treatment for injuries that were not considered life-threatening. Multiple news articles identify the woman who lost her life on Tidewater Drive as 68-year-old Janis B. Neal.
Officials have ruled out alcohol or drug use by the Cadillac driver as a possible reason why the person lost control. Attention has turned to dangerous road conditions, as an overnight storm left ice on bridges around Hampton Roads. According to national statistics updated by the Federal Highway Administration early in 2017, ice-covered roadways saw 151,944 crashes that resulted in 559 deaths and 38,770 injuries.
It is unknowable how many of those fatal and serious crashes happened in Norfolk during winter weather. What is clear from more local observations is that drivers, bike riders and pedestrians in the city face life-threatening risks at all times. During 2017, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles recorded 4,199 crashes in Norfolk that led to 20 deaths and 2,298 injuries. Across the entire state, 1,533 crashes were blamed on “left of center not passing,” which can easily happen when a driver fails to slow down and steer cautiously on icy pavement.
Having handled several cases for clients who suffered severe injuries or lost families members in wrecks attributed to black ice, my Virginia wrongful death attorney colleagues and I compiled a list of safe winter driving tips. The highlights are to
- Allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.
- Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your wheels start to lock up, ease off the brake and then begin braking gently until you feel traction.
- Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.
- Be careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads, which freeze over first. Even at temperatures above freezing, if the conditions are wet, you might encounter ice in shady areas or on exposed roadways like bridges.
With more rain, sleet and snow guaranteed -- if not soon, at some point -- all drivers must make the best practices listed above standard operating procedures.