New York consistently ranks in the top five when it comes to the most dangerous states for winter driving, based on accident statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Auto Insurance Center. For the five-year period from 2011-2015, an average of 46 people died in motor vehicle crashes in the state because of snow, ice, sleet, freezing rain and other cold-weather conditions. Many more were injured. With another winter coming on, here are some refresher tips for staying safe while driving in severe weather.
Prepare Your Vehicle
It’s not too late to get your vehicle ready for New York’s winter weather. Making sure it’s in top working order will help keep you from being stranded in the cold, or worse, in an accident. Have oil changes and other routine maintenance performed. Check tires for wear and replace if necessary—also check tire pressure as tires deflate in cold weather, making it harder to maneuver on wet and icy roads. Ensure that your vehicle’s brakes, lights, windshield wipers, cooling system, battery, window defroster and heating system are working properly. Always keep your gas tank at least half full so the gas line doesn’t freeze.
Drive with Extra Care
As anyone who has driven in winter knows, driving is different now than driving during other times of the year. While buckling up and driving safely and attentively is always important, navigating snowy, icy and slick streets requires additional care behind the wheel. Here are some safety basics for winter driving:
- Very importantly–slow down. Vehicles are much harder to control on icy and snowy roads.
- Leave extra room between cars. It takes longer to stop on wet and icy roads. Also, don’t crowd snow plows, whose drivers may not be able to see you.
- Never use cruise control. If wheels lose traction on rainy, icy or snowy roads and begin to spin, cruise control can keep you accelerating.
- Use brakes correctly. Apply firm, steady pressure when braking. If your brakes are not antilock, you may need to pump them if wheels begin locking up.
- Steer into slides. If your car begins sliding, resist the urge to brake. Braking will make it worse. Steer the car in the direction the back end of the car is sliding. Once the car is straight, straighten out the wheel.
In Case of Emergency
Keep an emergency kit in the car in case you get stuck. Include blankets, flashlights, flares, jumper cables, ice scraper, snow shovel, sand or cat litter for getting out of snow, non-perishable food and water. Always have a cell phone and cell phone charger on hand when driving in the winter, so you can call for assistance if necessary. If you are stuck and need to run the heater for warmth, do so sporadically. But first, check the vehicle’s tailpipe to be sure it isn’t blocked by snow or ice, which could cause carbon monoxide gas to enter the car’s passenger compartment.
Before heading out in winter, check road and driving conditions to help avoid possible problems. New Yorkers can check the state’s 511NY.org for road conditions and information.
If you are in a car accident and need the services of an experienced attorney, the professionals at Kaplan Lawyers PC are available for you to contact 24/7.