When the first major snow storm of the season hits Upstate New York, it is a good time to review what you can do to avoid getting into a car accident. This is true if you are new to the area, or even if you are a long-time resident who considers yourself to be a “pro” when it comes to winter driving. In fact, if you have been driving in icy, snowy and slushy conditions for many years, you may have actually developed some dangerous habits and forgotten about good winter driving practices which can help to keep you safe. With that in mind, the car accident attorneys of Powers & Santola, LLP, offer these 12 tips for driving in the snow this winter season in Upstate New York.
Unfortunately, even safe and responsible drivers can get into crashes. You can’t control what others do on the road. If a careless or reckless driver causes an accident that injures you or a loved one, make sure to contact us. We will provide a timely, free review of your case and help you to understand and explore all of your legal options.
1. Prepare your vehicle.
If you have not done so already, you should make sure your car is ready for winter driving. Stop by your local mechanic and get a check of your tires, brakes, lights, battery and windshield wipers. Tires with good tread are especially important in adverse weather conditions. You should also keep an emergency kit in your car that includes a flashlight, scraper, tire-changing equipment, booster cable, small shovel and something you can use for traction if you get stuck in the snow like a mat or a bag of sand or kitty litter.
2. Give yourself plenty of time.
When you drive in the winter in Albany, Rochester, Syracuse and other areas of Upstate New York, you can’t always just jump in your car and hit the road. You need to plan ahead and give yourself ample time to warm your engine, defrost your windows and clear the snow and ice off your roof. When you are not in a rush, you will also be less likely to speed in poor road conditions.
3. Keep your windshield clear.
If it is freezing outside, and you are in a hurry, you may be tempted to clear just a small area of your front windshield and head out in your car. Don’t do this: It’s dangerous. Instead, scrape the frost, ice and snow off your entire windshield so you will have full visibility. You should also clear your side windows and back window.
4. Use your headlights – even in the daytime.
Even if you are driving in daylight, you should use your headlights if you are in a storm or in foggy conditions. By doing so, you help other drivers to see you, and you can avoid a potentially costly collision. In fact, New York law requires drivers to turn on their headlights when they cannot see at least 1,000 feet in front of them and whenever their windshield wipers are in use – no matter what time of day it is.
5. Reduce your speed.
When ice, snow or slush is on the road – including “black ice” that makes roads slick – you can’t drive as fast as you typically would. If you go too fast, you may lose control of your car and experience a dangerous skid. You may also be unable to slow down or stop on time and avoid slamming into a vehicle in front of you. Keep a close watch on your speed and adjust to the conditions. Additionally, if the roads are bad, you should avoid using your cruise control.
6. Turn on your hazard lights if you are going slow.
Nothing is wrong with driving at a slow speed in winter weather – especially if you don’t feel safe going faster. In fact, that is reasonable, prudent behavior. However, you should turn on your hazard lights or flashers so you can alert other drivers.
7. Know your brakes.
It is a good idea to test your brakes and have a good feel for how much pressure you need to apply in order to safely stop or slow down in poor road conditions. You never want to slam on your brakes in the snow or ice. Instead, you should pump them and gradually reduce your speed.
8. Never tailgate.
In any weather, you should leave at least a two-to-three-second distance between your car and the car in front of you. If you are driving in the snow, you should try to leave even more room. If you tailgate another driver in winter driving conditions, you can easily cause a rear-end collision.
9. Be cautious when going over bridges.
When cold wind blows across the road on a bridge, it will make it icier than other sections of the road. Often, bridges have “black ice” that you can’t see. For this reason, you should slow down when going over bridges in Upstate New York such as the Dunn Memorial Bridge or Patroon Island Bridge in Albany.
10. Don’t stop when you are going up a hill.
Driving up a hill can be challenging in snow. The best practice is to accelerate slightly before you reach the hill and then maintain a steady speed until you reach the top. If you are driving a stick-shift car, try to stay in a higher gear. You don’t want to stop. If you do, then you may slip backwards, get stuck or be forced to hit the gas pedal hard, which could cause your wheels to spin.
11. Leave extra room around tractor-trailers.
Sharing the road with massive 18-wheelers can be dangerous in any type of weather. However, you should use extra caution when the roads are covered in snow and ice. Leave a little more following distance than usual and always stay out of the truck driver’s blind spots.
12. Always wear your seat belt.
If you drive without wearing a seat belt, you expose yourself to the risk of suffering serious injuries if you are involved in a traffic accident. Everyone one in the car – front seat and back seat – should wear a seat belt, regardless of weather conditions. However, because the risk of an accident increases when you drive through snow, it is especially important to buckle up during the winter time.
Our Upstate New York Car Accident Attorneys Can Help You Today
Bad weather is no excuse for bad driving. If a negligent driver caused an accident that harmed you or a loved one, get help from Powers & Santola, LLP today. We can provide a free consultation and immediately go to work on pursuing the compensation you deserve.