This winter has been one of the coldest in recent memory, at least for those of us in the Northeast. It seems like every day is a new record low for daytime temperatures. If you have grown tired of driving in icy and snowy conditions on your morning commute you’re not alone. The good news: in less than a month, spring will be upon us. The bad news: there’s still plenty of time for Mother Nature to throw some more winter weather at us. This means that we must be extra careful when driving and even when we are just walking to and from our cars. Be especially careful when walking to or from your car in the early morning or evening hours. It’s only natural to sometimes be in a rush when walking from the workplace to your car in the parking lot, especially when the temperature if below freezing and arctic wind is hitting you. But this is when you have to be especially careful. Snow and ice that melted in the sunshine easily can refreeze and turn into ice when the sun goes down. Many times ice will look like water on the ground. This is especially prevalent near snow banks where snow runs off from the bank or the pile and then collects in areas many feet away from the snow back. Walk slowly and carefully in these areas, especially at night and in the morning. Sometimes snow accumulates in parking lots in the areas between cars. This can cause people to slip and fall after they step out of their cars or as they are stepping into their cars. Always look at the ground before you step in or out of your car. Make sure to wear proper footwear with good traction for ice and snow. Although it’s a good idea to have snow brushes and ice scrapers at home, be sure to keep a snow brush and ice scraper in your car so that you can clean your car if there is a snowstorm while you are away from home.
Now that I have given you some general safety tips for the winter, here are some tips for driving in the snow:
- Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up.
- If possible, avoid using your parking brake in cold, rainy and snowy weather.
- Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface (wet, ice, sand).
- Always look and steer where you want to go.
- Use your seat belt every time you get into your vehicle.
- Make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment with the engine running.
- Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry. And take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
- Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. Accelerating, stopping, turning – nothing happens as quickly as on dry pavement. Give yourself time to maneuver by driving slowly.
- The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
- Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, the best way to stop is threshold breaking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
- Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.
- Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed down hill as slowly as possible.
- Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.
- Stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Even if you can drive well in the snow, not everyone else can. Don’t tempt fate: If you don’t have somewhere you have to be, watch the snow from indoors.
In addition, some other safety tips worth mentioning are:
- Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
- Be sure that your tires are properly inflated.
- Never mix radial tires with other tire types.
At Stark & Stark, we care about your safety and hope these tips help you cope with this tough winter weather we’ve all been experiencing. We represent people throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania who have been hurt in car accidents, slips and falls, and other unfortunate incidents. We hope that you will not need our assistance, but if you do, or if you know someone who does, we are here to help. Call me right away if you have been hurt as a result of someone else’s negligence.