Video of 50-car pile-up reminds us about winter driving hazards

When you live in Chicago (or the Midwest generally) it should go without saying that winter driving necessarily looks and feels a lot different than driving at any other time of year. Snow, ice, low visibility and very cold temperatures require motorists to slow down and drive defensively.

But have you ever noticed that at least half of the Illinois population seems to forget how to drive whenever the season’s first snowfall arrives? Completely preventable car accidents and pile-ups always seem to follow the first hint of winter weather. And because December has been unusually cold and snowy compared to recent years, winter-related car accidents seem especially prevalent and severe this year.

A good example of winter-driving incompetence occurred just over a week ago in Wisconsin. The accident has gained national attention because it was caught on video. A stationary camera giving a wide overhead view of a slippery highway shows a chain-reaction crash that goes on for about five minutes and includes approximately 50 vehicles.

It all starts with most cars driving slowly and carefully along the snowy and icy highway. Suddenly, a driver going much to fast for the conditions comes speeding up the center lane before spinning out and hitting another car. Then, wave after wave of cars and trucks continue to come into the area and slam into one another like balls on a pool table. The scene becomes even more chaotic when some drivers get out of their crashed vehicles while cars and trucks behind them keep spinning out of control.

To be sure, there are times when winter weather creates road conditions so bad that an accident cannot be avoided. In many cases, however, devastating chain-reaction crashes are the result of one inpatient and seemingly oblivious driver who seems to believe that the laws of physics don’t apply to them.

Because this particular accident was clearly caught on video, it will be interesting to see if the original at-fault driver is cited for reckless driving or is named as a defendant in a personal injury suit. If not, this video will at least serve to remind the rest of us that winter driving requires a little more patience and a lot more attention to the road.

Source: Examiner, “Wisconsin pileup: Crazy car crash in Wisconsin immortalized on ‘endless’ video,” Ryan Arciero, Dec. 10, 2013