More than 800 people die every year in the United States in motor vehicle crashes caused by snow, sleet, and freezing rain, according to a new study. The study found that fatalities were higher in heavy snowfall regions such as areas in New York near Lakes Erie and Ontario and in the West. Led by a researcher at the University of Georgia, the study is the first to compare the actual death rate with the expected rate based on population and weather patterns.
In the state of New York from 1975 to 2011, 2,767 people died in car accidents during snowfall, freezing rain, and sleet, according to the study. New York City had significantly lower rates than upstate New York. The researcher theorized that urban areas have lower fatality rates because many people use mass transit, such as subways and buses.
Central New York counties had rates that were higher than expected. For instance, Onondaga County had 1.43 deaths for each expected death. Oswego County had 4.7 deaths for each expected death, which was one of the highest rates in New York State. Winter is the most dangerous time of year to be on the road.
Here are some safety tips on how to drive safely in the snow.
- Stop properly. Your vehicle likely has an antilock brake system (ABS). Anti-lock brakes activate in emergency situations when a driver stomps on the brakes. ABS keeps your wheels from locking up and causing the vehicle to skid out of control after hard braking. Anti-lock brakes allow you to keep steering while you are stopping. You may press firmly on the brake pedal. You may feel it vibrate. As safety advocates say: “Stomp, stay, steer.”
- Accelerate and decelerate slowly. When the roads are icy, it’s best to apply the gas slowly and try your best to avoid sudden braking. Take your time when speeding up and slowing down. Anticipate stops well in advance. Keep in mind that it can take considerably longer to slow down when the roads are covered with snow or ice.
- Never tailgate. Following too closely is especially dangerous driving behavior in winter months. It takes longer to stop when the roads are wet or slick. You should allow more distance between your vehicle and in the vehicle in front. Try to keep your following distance to five to six seconds to give yourself the longer distance needed to stop safely.
- Try to Avoid Hitting the Gas Pedal on Hills. Maintaining steady momentum is better that trying to accelerate going up roads that are icy and snow-colored. You don’t want to make your wheels spin and lose traction. Before you get to a hill, try to get some momentum going and let it carry you to the top. When you get to the crest of the hill, slow down and carefully proceed downhill.
- Do not drive distracted. It’s critical that you stay alert. Safe-driving in the winter means paying close attention to your surroundings. Don’t let your radio, phone, or any other distraction take your focus off the road.
- Never use cruise control. Using cruise control while driving in icy conditions could quickly lead to a tragic accident. Keep the cruise control off.
- Be familiar with your vehicle’s drive type. Is your vehicle rear-wheel drive, front-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive? Each of these three drives handles differently. With front-wheel-drive vehicles, the weight of the engine is directly over the driving wheels. This is great for winter conditions because it gives better traction, and, therefore, less chance of spinning out than with a rear-wheel-drive car.
- Maintain your vehicle. There are a number of basic maintenance checks that can help you get your vehicle ready for safe winter driving. One check is to make sure your windshield wipers are in proper working order and can clear your windshield of snow and ice. Make sure you have an ice scraper in the vehicle. Inspect the tread on your tires. Worn tires are more likely to lose traction in icy conditions. Make sure your headlights and taillights work and give you maximum visibility.
- Keep the gas tank full. You never know what delays you may encounter when driving in winter. You don’t want to run out of gas while sitting in traffic on a snow-covered road. During winter weather, make sure you top off your gas when it gets to the halfway mark. This will ensure that you don’t get stuck near empty when inclement weather hits.
- Watch out for spray. Even when it isn’t snowing, your vision can be obstructed by spray from semi-trucks and other large vehicles on the road. When driving in the snow, be prepared for spray as you pass 18-wheelers by flipping on your windshield wipers. If the roads are wet, there will be spray from all vehicles. But when it starts to ice, you won’t see spray.
- Check your mirrors for ice. Inspect your outside mirrors. If ice is starting to form on them, that’s an indication that ice is also forming on the road. Be extra careful.
- Don’t drive unless you have to. The most effective way to stay safe during winter driving is to avoid driving when possible. If it is feasible for you to stay off the road, then don’t drive in ice and snow. This isn’t always an option, of course. If you have to drive when it’s snowy and icy, be sure that you and your vehicle are prepared for safe winter driving.
Contact A New York Car Accident Attorney
Unfortunately, some NY drivers fail to take proper precautions when driving on slick roads in winter months. If you have been injured in a New York car accident caused by a negligent driver, you may be entitled to seek compensation for your losses.
At David Resnick & Associates, P.C., we have experience helping clients in car accident lawsuits in New York. Rest assured that our knowledgeable and compassionate lawyers will fight for you to receive the maximum compensation available if you have been injured.
To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with the skilled injury attorneys at David Resnick & Associates, P.C., call (212) 279-2000 now or fill out our online contact form.