New York is no stranger to snowstorms, and after the beginning of the holiday season, a blizzard can occur at any point. Because Long Island is no stranger to winter weather, life for many doesn’t necessarily come to a halt just because there is snow on roads. This ultimately leaves those drivers more vulnerable to getting into a car accident.
Of all the weather-related motor vehicle accidents in the country, 24% of those accidents are as a result of winter weather. Whether it’s snow, slush, or ice, any kind of accumulation on the pavement poses a serious danger for drivers if they aren’t careful. Additionally, if your car is not prepared for the winter weather, the risk becomes even higher.
De-icing your car properly is the first way to ensure you will drive safely. Even when there is no winter weather, frost accumulation can still occur and de-icing is still necessary. If not done properly, the clear ice on your windshield will turn into a mirror in the sun. Meaning you are virtually blind on the roads.
First, get rid of all the snow. This may seem obvious, but some don’t realize how important it is to really get away from all the snow before starting the deicing process. This is also important so that snow doesn’t fall from your car while driving, and making it dangerous for someone else. Once you have cleared the snow, turn your car on so it begins to warm up and turn on the defrosters. You can speed up the process by using an ice scraper on your windshields. If it has melted most of the way, your windshield wiper should be able to wipe off the rest. Remember, do not pull out of your driveway until all the ice is cleared from your front and rear windshield.
Because of the increased need for control, a four-wheel drive vehicle will perform better in the snow than a two-wheel drive. If someone in the household has a four-wheel drive, that should be the car designated to be on the road if necessary. If you only have two-wheel drive vehicles, a front-wheel drive will have more control in the snow than a rear-wheel drive.
Additionally, check your tires to make sure they are properly inflated, and the tread depth is acceptable. Remember the penny test – if you see the top of Lincoln’s head disappear between the ribs of the tread, your tires are still good to go. If you’re planning on using snow tires, you want to get them installed before the snow begins to fall.
Give yourself plenty of time to prepare, and leave for your destination early. When there is snow on the ground, you should not be driving the speed limit. It should take longer to drive to your destination, so it is better to anticipate that than to feel rushed. Additionally, check the road conditions either online or on a news station. Sometimes roads are closed because they are being plowed or because of accidents. Find out ahead of time so you can map some alternate routes.
If you are on the road and begin to lose control because of the weather, here are some things you can do. If your wheels start to spin in the snow, take your foot off the accelerator, and retry accelerating with a much lighter foot. Slowly and cautiously accelerate until your tires regain traction. You might have to give this a couple of tries if your wheels are stuck in snow.
Wheel Lockup occurs when you brake too aggressively/suddenly. Your vehicle could still be in motion, but your tires will stop turning. This presents a dangerous situation if you’re ever stopping abruptly to avoid a collision. Fortunately, “Anti-Lock Braking Systems” (ABS) are now in most cars on the road and are designed to keep your wheels from locking up should you ever brake too aggressively. Check your car’s user manual, or look on the dashboard when you start your car for the ABS symbol, to see if your car has this safety feature installed. Because black ice and slippery roads can cause wheel lockup, it’s important to increase braking distance when driving in snow or ice. It is imperative to anticipate the fact that it will take a car a longer time to decelerate due to the decreased traction.
If you begin to skid while making a turn, don’t give in to the thought that turning your wheels further in the direction you planned to turn will rectify the situation. It will likely make it worse. Your best bet is to try to regain traction. Jerking your wheels straight and then slowly turning them in the direction you want to go can help your wheels gain traction so you avoid skidding off the road.
Steven Palermo is the managing partner for Palermo Law, Long Island’s Personal Injury Law Firm. He has been helping people receive compensation for their injuries for over 21 years. He focuses on cases involving car accidents, truck accidents, construction accidents and slip and fall injuries.
His book The Ultimate Guide to Handling New York Car Accident Claims details the ins and outs of a car accident claim in a simple, easy-to-read manner.