It’s winter in New York, and that means snow and ice. Whether you’re in the middle of Manhattan or headed to Upstate New York, winter can strike hard and cause havoc at any time. Just like slipping and falling on ice while walking, sliding while driving can mean more damage, more injuries, and more expenses. If you drive in New York, it’s important to take precautions before venturing out anywhere during winter weather, as well as utilize defensive driving to avoid a weather related accident.
It’s best not to drive at all unless you absolutely have to. But if you find yourself having to venture out, we offer some advice for safe travels and avoiding accidents.
Keep your speed in tune with road and weather conditions. Go slower if the conditions warrant it.
Drive With Lights In Snow
This helps other drivers see you. If you must drive very slow, add your hazard lights as well.
Allow Extra Time For Travel
Winter isn’t the time for hopping in your car and taking off. You’ll need to warm up the engine (and the inside), remove the snow and ice from your windshield, windows, and roof before you leave. Otherwise, you may be tempted to drive faster than the conditions allow.
Leave Extra Distance Between Cars
Snow and icy road conditions can reduce the time you have to stop. Stay at least two or three car lengths behind other cars, and avoid tailgating. Leave even more room for big trucks.
Look For Slick Conditions On Bridges And Elevated Roads
Because they are above the ground, bridges tend to become icy much faster than surface streets. Assume that any bridge will be slippery upon approach, and drive accordingly.
Beware Of “Black Ice”
Although the ice itself is not black, it looks that way. Black ice is a thin, clear coating of ice on roads that shows the black asphalt. The ice blends in since it’s not visible on the black roads. Bridges can develop black ice as well as shaded spots that aren’t exposed to sunlight.
Give Snowplows The Right Of Way
Never attempt to pass a snowplow, or follow too close. Much like a big truck, if you can’t see the driver’s mirrors, the driver can’t see you. The roads ahead of the snowplows are covered, and drifts can cover small children. Snowplows can create a complete whiteout of the area, reducing visibility even further.
Preparing Your Vehicle
The best defense is a good offense. Preparing your vehicle is ready for winter driving is easy, and can make the difference between a pleasant drive and an unpleasant one. These are some suggestions from the NY Department of Transportation, which has a complete list of winter driving information available in a two-page PDF on its website. The State of NY also has some winter driving information available.
- Check your tires. Are they properly inflated? Cold air can reduce PSI rapidly. Do they have enough tread? Is there an “egg” on your tire? You may not need “snow tires,” but checking tires before driving in winter weather will let you know if you need new ones.
- Check your tread: take a penny and insert it into each groove head side down. If Lincoln’s head is completely covered in each groove, the tire is good. Check for uneven wear, and make sure each tire has plenty of tread.
- Check your brakes. Do they stop the car, or does it take a minute? Never slam on your brakes, especially in snow or ice. It’s safer to pump the brakes and reduce your driving speed gradually.
- Check your windshield wiper blades. How old are the blades? Is the rubber supple or brittle? Chances are if they’re older than six months, it’s time for a change. Use factory-equivalent or OEM (“original equipment manufacturer”) wiper blades, or get “winter” blades for even better cleaning.
- Use non-freezing washer fluid to ensure that the windshield stays clear.
- Have your battery checked. A battery more than three or four years ago may leave you stranded in the cold, so it’s important to have it checked before you head out. Extreme heat and cold can reduce the life of a battery faster than temperate climes, so have your battery checked before you head out.
- Replace the coolant in your AC system. Even if you bought a “lifetime” coolant, it doesn’t stop dirt from getting into the system. Changing coolant every three or four years will keep the system running clean and prevent costly repairs later.
- Have your heating/cooling system checked. Even though you’re not using the air conditioning to cool your vehicle, old rubber hoses can become cracked and burst from the extreme heat and cold. The thermostat may not be working properly, or the car’s drive belt may be fraying and can go when you need to get out of the cold.
- Have emergency supplies available. If you find yourself in a traffic jam or otherwise stuck somewhere for a while, a bag or box of emergency supplies can make things easier. Include:
- Jumper cables (you might also need to help someone else out)
- Ice scraper
- Small compact/collapsible shovel
- Gloves (not mittens)
- Heavy sweatshirt and hat
- Non-perishable snacks such as granola or candy bars
- Some cash, since many places don’t accept debit or credit cards.
- Make sure your cell phone is working properly and fully charged, and you have a charger to keep it running.
While it’s best not to travel in heavy winter weather, there are occasions where it becomes necessary. Planning ahead, driving slower, and taking extra precautions can help you avoid an accident in winter.
Weather Related Accident? Call The Family-Owned Hoffmaier & Hoffmaier Today
We offer free consultations for any kind of accident. You can talk to someone today at Hoffmaier & Hoffmaier by calling (212) 777-9400, or use our website contact form. As a family-owned NYC personal injury law firm, we have over 26 years of experience helping injured people after a devastating accident. We offer a contingency fee arrangement that means we won’t get paid until you do, whether we settle your case out of court or litigate it in court.