In northern Sweden, there’s a small town by the name of Kall. Kall is the Swedish word for “cold.” It is famous for ice driving – where, for a large fee, you can learn to drive high-performance cars flat-out on a frozen lake, and world-class rally-car racers test their vehicles for racing in the cold. Fortunately, all you can do if you spin your car out on the lake in Kall is drive into a snowbank, laughing, and watch the powder fly.
Not so in Central and Northern New York.
We’ve got plenty of snow and cold, all right. But a spin out in a whiteout on an icy overpass on one of our interstate highways won’t leave you laughing. It will most likely leave you seriously injured, and at risk of being struck by another car … or a truck or bus. Driving in winter in Central and Northern New York can lead even the best drivers to catastrophic outcomes.
Winter Auto Collision Statistics
Did you know that the most dangerous day to drive is the first day after a major snowstorm? Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley evaluated 1.4 million fatal crashes attributed to weather conditions from 1975 to 2000. They found that fatal crashes were 14 percent more likely to occur on the first snowy day of the season (Forbes, 1-21-09).
Experts agree that the major cause of winter accidents is unsafe speed. Speeding is a factor in 30 percent of all fatal crashes. Again, the University of California at Berkeley found in its study that speed was the single greatest factor in causing serious crashes — but not just because people violated the posted speed limit. Most crashes are caused when drivers ignore weather or traffic conditions that require a reduced speed (Forbes, 1-21-09).
You want to avoid any kind of winter accident!
What You Can Do To Avoid Winter Auto Accidents:
The Weather Five Winter Driving Tips on http://www.weather.com makes excellent recommendations for safer winter driving. View the article here: http://www.weather.com/life/safety/autosafety/article/five-winter-driving-tips_2011-10-30
1. Make sure you and your car are properly equipped
Before you set out on a snowy trip, even if it’s just a short drive to the grocery store, keep the following items in mind.
- Make sure that your car has ample antifreeze, the windshield is clean and you have plenty of windshield washer fluid.
- Check to make sure the headlights are clean and in working order.
- Verify that the tires have tread and are properly inflated.
- Have your battery tested, to avoid being stranded in the cold with a car that won’t start.
- Equip your car with a flashlight and extra batteries, a first aid kit, warm clothes, and a blanket.
- Remember to have sunglasses in the car, as the glare of the sun off of snow and ice can be more intense in the winter than it is in the summer.
- Perhaps the most important of all: Remember your cell phone, so you can call in case of emergency.
2. Slow down and drive smoothly
As mentioned above, driving too quickly is the main cause of accidents in winter conditions. Even if you’re driving an SUV or a four-wheel-drive vehicle, you cannot safely do 80 mph during a snowstorm. Regardless of your vehicle, how you drive can prevent accidents.
- Avoid abrupt acceleration, braking and unnecessary lane changes. These maneuvers can cause your vehicle to lose traction and can launch you into an uncontrollable skid, leading to a collision.
- Four-wheel-drive may help your vehicle get going in the slushy stuff, but it’s of no use when you’re trying to steer or safely stop on a slippery road surface.
- Be patient and accept the fact that it is going to take longer to arrive at your destination.
3. Do not tailgate
Tailgating often leads to accidents, especially if you are driving in stop-and-go traffic. You may think that the driver in front of you doing 35 mph on the freeway is going too slow and needs a reminder in the form of you riding their bumper, but doing so is dangerous.
- Be patient and stay well behind the driver in front of you until it’s safe to pass.
- It is important to remember that it takes a much longer distance to stop your vehicle in the snow or ice due to the reduced traction, even with just a light covering on the road.
- Having to deal with a fender bender on a busy road in the snow is certainly something that you want to avoid, especially if other cars are sliding around as well.
- Many serious accident injuries come from a second impact from another car after a seemingly trivial collision.
4. Do not use cruise control
Driving with cruise control has become almost second nature. Sure, it prevents you from getting leg fatigue, keeps you from unwittingly speeding and is great on long trips, but driving with it on in winter conditions can be unsafe.
- If cruise control has become a staple of your driving habits, make a conscious effort to ensure that you are not using it in winter weather.
- Using cruise control in the snow, ice or even rain is dangerous because if your car hydroplanes or skids, the car can accelerate and spin the wheels, attempting to maintain a constant speed.
- If you hydroplane with cruise control on, it will be more likely that you lose control of your vehicle.
5. Pull over or stay home
Remember, there is no shame in making the logical decision to stay in when the conditions are bad. You may be late arriving to your destination, but arriving late in one piece is much better than the alternative.
- If you can postpone your trip, or if it is non-essential, stay in when the weather is really bad.
- If at any point during your trip you feel that the weather is too bad to continue driving, simply stay put.
- If you’re out on the road, find a safe spot to pull over and wait until the weather passes or calms to the point where you feel comfortable driving again.
- If driving in bad weather conditions is fatiguing, switch drivers before you get tired.
Utilize your local and national weather resources
You can further assist yourself and your family avoiding the possibility of a winter car or truck accident by utilizing local resources … we are, of course, hardy folks in Upstate New York, living in one of the snowiest areas of the Continental U.S.
Check the weather ahead – is our route of travel or road closed? You have four excellent options in determining the status of your route:
First, utilize a local weather website for Central New York and vicinity, such as that for WSYR-TV in Syracuse, which offers excellent, up-to-the minute local Doppler radar: http://www.9wsyr.com/weather/default.aspx
Utilize a national weather website to examine the weather along the entire route of your travels. If you are traveling from Syracuse to Boston in January, for example, the weather on the NYS Thruway in Syracuse may be picture-perfect, but there may be an ice-storm going on at the same time over the Massachusetts Turnpike through the Berkshire Mountains! The gold-standard for weather data in the United States, by locale, is the website of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, or NOAA, at: http://www.noaa.gov/
the New York State Department of Transportation just initiated the “Winter Travel Advisory System.” It is available online at: http://511ny.org/mapview.aspx?showWTA=true According to N.Y.S. D.O.T., the system captures real-time reports directly from snowplow operators performing snow and ice operations, statewide, and puts them on a Google Map. The map can be adjusted, if requested, to automatically open to any of nine different regions of the state.
And finally – call someone at your destination! Depending upon the length of your trip, you should get weather observations from those folks closest to the endpoint of your journey.
If You Are In A Winter Car Or Truck Accident:
If you do have a winter car or truck accident or collision, the American Automobile Association makes the following recommendations: Read the article full article on http://exchange.aaa.com/automobiles-travel/automobiles/auto-collision-tips/
Assist the injured
Quickly check with those involved in the collision to determine if there are any injuries. If medical attention is needed, call 9-1-1. If medical attention is not needed, make sure you are not in imminent danger at the roadside.
Control the scene
Before taking time to exchange information, get to a safe place. If there are no injuries and the vehicle is drivable, safely move to the right or left emergency lane. Some state laws require drivable vehicles to be removed from the roadway to avoid traffic congestion. Turn on your hazard lights and set out warning flares or reflective triangles. Do not leave the scene of the crash, but find a safe place to remain until emergency services arrive.
Notify the police and submit a report
The law requires you notify the police. No matter what either party says, call the police and file a report. If the police do not come to the scene to open an investigation, you can file a report by visiting a local police department or automobile insurance agency in the days after a crash. Having a report on file may help later if a liability claim is filed.
Document the scene and exchange information
It is important to exchange and gather information with all parties involved in the crash, including witnesses. Having this on file will help complete any future paperwork or address potential problems. AAA suggests that you document:
- Addresses/email address
- Vehicle Information including makes, models and years for all cars involved
- Vehicle identification/license plate numbers
- Driver’s license numbers
- Insurance carriers and policy numbers
- Take photos of the location, people involved and damaged vehicles
- Notify your insurance carrierYour insurance carrier will need to be notified following a crash to start the proper claim filing. Many insurance companies have staff available 24/7 and can assist immediately. Having proof of insurance in your vehicle is required by law and makes filing a claim easier if not at home.As the AAA correctly states, drivers and owners of motor vehicles must be prepared to assume legal and financial responsibility if involved in a crash. As such, do not to let your emotions and feelings get in the way of deciding who is at fault. Never allow yourself to be pressured into admitting fault or giving an opinion about the cause of a crash.
You should consult with an attorney, IMMEDIATELY after the collision.
We’re here 24 hours a day for you. Our offices will always answer your call during business hours, and after hours we have an investigator or attorney on-call at all times. You will NOT get a voicemail message … you will get a real, live, knowledgeable employee of Greene & Reid, PLLC, in person answering your call immediately.
Don’t wait. Whether informing you of your rights when asked to give a statement from an insurance company, getting a police accident report, assisting you with your No-Fault application for medical and lost wage benefits, to successfully settling your claim against the negligent driver who caused your winter car or truck accident, Greene & Reid, PLLC, is here to help.
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If you or a loved one has been injured because of someone else’s negligence, call on the New York personal injury lawyers of Greene & Reid. Call us toll free at (800) 886-9665 or simply complete a free online consultation form, and one of our attorneys will contact you to discuss your accident and answer your questions, free of charge. Greene & Reid has successfully advocated for clients in Cortland, Syracuse, andWatertown.
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