Winter weather recently hit the East Coast, including New York State, with a vengeance. The snowy, icy and all-around miserable conditions make for poor driving and more frequent auto accidents. If you are a New York driver, you should be prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws at you during this increasingly intense winter season.
Beware of Icy Road Conditions
What exactly makes winter driving so dangerous?
Fresh snow is deceivingly delicate and pretty, as it transforms into sleek sheets of ice on the road. These slippery surfaces tend to reduce tire traction, making it difficult to accelerate or brake. This loss of traction in combination with higher speeds can be deadly, because it can take twice as long to stop a vehicle when conditions are slick. It is easier to lose control of your car and experience skidding and spinning in bad weather.
Besides the mounds of snow to get stuck in, the icy roads to slip and slide on, and the precipitation flying from every direction onto your windshield, there are the other drivers. These are not just any other drivers — these are the drivers who think they are invincible despite the increased danger of accidents, injury and death during inclement weather. In order to protect yourself from these drivers, besides not driving at all, you need to look deep within and find the defensive driver in you.
Be a Defensive Driver
There are many ways to prepare for driving defensively during winter weather. Before you even enter the car, check the driving conditions online and confirm when local snowplows and salt trucks will be in your area. You should be aware of the safest route to your destination and allow extra time for winter travel. Always use your headlights, windshield wipers, defrosters, turn signals and seat belt during bad weather.
While driving, keep your speed low and the distance between your vehicle and others high. Be a courteous driver, as road rage has no place amid already-dangerous winter conditions. Try to use lower gears, avoid changing lanes, and brake gently, especially in heavily trafficked areas. If you find yourself in a skid, try not to panic. Instead, take your foot off the brake or the gas pedal and only steer to avoid a rear-wheel skid in the opposite direction.
You may also want to winterize your car to further ensure safe travel.
Visit Your Local Mechanic
It may seem a bit extreme to visit your local mechanic simply because of the winter weather. Preventive measures like this, however, may save you and your family from accidents and injuries. According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), when the snow’s dampness and freezing temperatures meet your vehicle’s mechanical system, it can put stress on the engine and how efficiently it operates. AAA recommends that before driving in winter weather you ask your mechanic to verify that your vehicle’s electrical system, lights, brakes, exhaust system, windshield wipers and heating and cooling system are in working order or properly repaired.
To gain more traction on icy roads, make sure your tires are inflated properly and have plenty of tread. You may also decide to purchase snow tires or chains for increased tire performance. Check and refill your windshield wiper and antifreeze fluids. Place emergency items like jumper cables, bags of sand, fuel line de-icers, flashlights, snowbrushes, shovels and ice scrapers in your trunk. Also keep your gas tank more than half-full to avoid a frozen fuel line. The best advice is to prepare for the worst when the weather is unpredictable.
Prepare for the Worst
After you have donned appropriate winter attire, including a warm winter jacket and boots, lined gloves or mittens, and a thick hat and scarf, you may also want to grab a few other provisions. In the unlikely event that your car becomes lodged in a snow bank on the side of a sparsely traveled road, a sleeping bag or other blanket will come in handy while you stay in your car and wait out the storm. Be sure to have a cell phone to call for assistance and an emergency stash of food and water so that you are in good shape when help arrives.
Even when you are as prepared as possible and as safe a driver as you can be, you may still find yourself in a car crash during a bout of winter weather. If this happens, do not exit the protection of your car until it is safe to do so. Follow the standard accident protocol, if possible, of exchanging driver, registration and insurance information, as well as reporting the accident when significant property damage or injury occurs.
Finally, contact a New York personal injury attorney. A lawyer experienced in personal injury may be able to help you recover for your pain and suffering and any medical costs you incur due to another person’s reckless driving during New York’s poor winter weather conditions.