If you live in Teaneck or elsewhere in New Jersey, then you are no stranger to snow. In fact, according to records maintained by the Office of the New Jersey Climatologist at Rutgers University, a March snowstorm last year dumped between five and nine inches on the Garden State in just a single day.
As a New Jersey resident, you should also know that snow and ice can lead to car accidents. This is because driving in wintry weather conditions can be difficult and dangerous — even for those who have extensive experience doing so.
Snow can make roads slick and slippery, which in turn, can:
- Reduce the amount of control that drivers have over their vehicles
- Increase the distance required to bring a vehicle to a stop
- Force drivers to exercise certain driving skills that are not normally used on dry roads
For these reasons, there is an increased likelihood that drivers who travel during snowy or icy conditions will be involved in a car accident.
While it is impossible to prevent all winter car accidents, New Jersey drivers can employ several safe winter driving tips in order to decrease the risk of a winter collision and remain safe on the road during the coming months.
Preparing Your Vehicle for Winter Driving
One key to staying safe on the roads this winter is to make sure your vehicle is in peak condition. Before heavy snows fall, and roads become difficult to travel on, take the time to ensure your vehicle is ready to handle snowy and icy conditions by following these tips from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA):
Get your car checked.
Take your car to a certified, trusted mechanic and have your car tuned-up and checked out for winter driving. Your mechanic should ensure that your tires, brakes and windshield wipers are in good, working order. Your mechanic should check the fluid levels in your vehicle.
Learn about your brakes.
Familiarize yourself with whether your car has antilock brakes and how to properly use your brakes to stop in an emergency. Most new cars have antilock brakes. They do not need to be pumped in order to stop the car. Instead, a driver simply “stomps” on the brakes forcefully in order to stop the car. If your car does not have antilock brakes, you must quickly “pump” the brakes to stop the car. If you are not sure what type of brakes you have, ask your mechanic or consult your car’s owner’s guide.
Put an emergency kit into your car.
In case you become stranded during a snowstorm or blizzard, you will want an emergency kit. The kit should include blankets, jumper cables, flares or other emergency signaling devices. It should also have a flashlight. If you plan on taking a longer trip, and snow is expected, you should also pack extra medication if anyone in your traveling party takes prescription medications, a fully-charged cell phone, food and water.
Keep your fuel tank at least half-full at all times.
When a fuel tank is near empty, condensation can form and, in the winter, it can freeze. The ice can clog your fuel lines and prevent your car from running.
Be mindful of the weather.
This is especially true when your plans require extensive travel. Tune in to local weather radio stations or TV channels before you leave so you know what sort of weather conditions you can expect along your route.
Safe Winter Driving Tips
As any experienced driver can attest, driving when roads are packed with snow or slick from ice is considerably different — and more difficult — than driving during dry, sunny conditions.
If you are not accustomed to driving in these conditions and must venture forth during a snowstorm or blizzard, you can easily find yourself involved in a car accident.
Give yourself plenty of time to travel to your destination if snow or ice is expected. Speeding or rushing when roadways are slick can cause you to lose control of your car and crash.
Allow for plenty of space between yourself and any cars traveling in front of you. Braking distance may double or even triple during snowy and icy conditions.
Take it easy.
Gently apply brakes and do not suddenly accelerate. Slamming on the brakes can cause you to lose control of the car. If your car is stopped and cannot get traction, attempting to quickly accelerate from a stop can cause your car to become further stuck in the snow. Alternatively, it can cause you to lose control if your car suddenly gains traction. You should attempt to avoid stopping if possible, and do not stop while going up a hill if it can be avoided.
If at all possible, stay home during snowy or icy conditions. Even if you are comfortable driving during the snow and practice safe driving techniques, there is no guarantee that other drivers are as comfortable or as safety-conscious as you are.
Tips for Long Distance Winter Trips
Traveling a long distance when it is snowing or icy outside presents its own set of risks and dangers. AAA offers these additional tips to help you stay safe while driving in the snow for extended periods of time:
Let others know about your plans. Be sure to speak with a family member or friend about your travel plans and let them know when you plan to travel, what route you plan to take, and what time you expect to arrive at your destination. Keep this person apprised of your progress and give him or her instructions to call authorities if he or she is unable to reach you after a certain amount of time.
Keep track of the weather. Continue to monitor weather reports throughout the duration of your travel and consider stopping at a safe location if weather in your area is predicted to be dangerous.
If you do become stranded on the roadside in a storm:
- Keep the interior dome light of the car lit for as long as possible.
- Only turn on your car for brief periods of time — enough time to get warm — and try to conserve as much fuel as possible.
- Periodically check the exhaust pipe and clear any obstructions to prevent the buildup of deadly carbon monoxide inside the car.
- Tie a piece of brightly-colored fabric to your car’s antenna or window to help rescuers spot your vehicle.
- Stay warm using blankets, newspapers, maps, floor mats — anything that you have available to you.
Also, avoid abandoning your car during a snowstorm as it is easy to become lost or disoriented.
What You Should Do If You Are in a Winter Car Accident
If you or a loved one is injured in a winter car accident in Teaneck or elsewhere in New Jersey, the law firm of Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C., is available to assist you in investigating your case and pursuing compensation for your injuries and losses.
We have prepared an accident checklist for New Jersey drivers to keep in their vehicles and/or with them on their person. This checklist describes the steps you should take immediately following an accident in order to protect yourself, your passengers and your legal rights.
The attorneys at the office of Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C., are available to assist New Jersey winter car accident victims. Contact our office today by phone or online to schedule a free initial consultation.