Now that it's January, winter weather is surely right around the corner in New Jersey. There's nothing like a weekday winter storm to throw a wrench in your commute. Everything tends to be more difficult, from getting the kids to and from school, to getting yourself to work, the grocery store, the gym, etc. Also, winter weather increases your car accident risk. Getting in a crash is not only a day-altering inconvenience, it can lead to serious and fatal injury.
Below, we look at some of the basic dos and don'ts when it comes to driving in inclement weather. While nothing short of staying home can eliminate your accident risk, commonsense precautions help you lower the risk.
DO: Maintain Your Vehicle in the Winter
Routine vehicle maintenance is important year-round. Keeping your vehicle in working order prevents break-downs, blowouts, stalls and other issues that could be hazardous on the road. Here are a few places to start:
- Tire tread. Your tires are one of the most important safety features, especially when it comes to icy, snowy or wet roads. Your tires are what keep contact with the road. Good tread provides better traction. Check the tread or have your local tire shop check the tread. You can also consider snow tires for the winter.
- Windshield wipers. Wiper blades are another critical device. You'll want to keep your windshield clear, which becomes particularly important when vehicles kick up slush onto your windshield. Replace blades that appear worn, cracked or damaged. It's usually a good idea to replace them once or twice a year, or whenever you notice a difference in performance.
- Battery charge. Ask your mechanic to check your battery. Dead batteries are a common cause of problems on the road during the winter.
- Fluid reservoirs. Make sure all of your fluids are topped off, including windshield wiper fluid. Your mechanic can also do this for you.
We recommend taking a look at these items now, before the winter weather hits. Waiting until the day before snowfall or rain may be too late.
DO: Allow extra time before getting on the road.
Sure, you'd love to have extra time to get to work, right? We could all use more time in the morning, but it's really critical to build in extra time after a snowy, icy or particularly cold night. Why? Because it's important to clear all snow and ice from your vehicle. It must be cleared from the windows, roof, trunk and hood. In fact, New Jersey law requires you to do so in order to prevent accidents and injuries. Clear your mirrors and headlights too. If there was a lot of snowfall, it could take about 10-15 minutes or more to get all the snow removed. Build in extra time so that you don't feel rushed when driving to work.
DO: Prepare for driving on icy, snowy roads.
Winter preparedness doesn't stop once you've gotten your car cleared and the windshield defrosted. Practice safe driving behavior behind the wheel:
- Reduce your speed on icy, wet and snow-packed roads
- Increase your following distance in case the vehicle in front of you skids, brakes suddenly, crashes or makes some kind of unexpected maneuver
- Drive with your headlights on
- Allow extra time to reach your destination
If at all possible, it's not a bad idea to stay home when the weather is wintry.
As for the don'ts...
DON'T: Tailgate snow plows.
Snowplows do their best to keep the roads as clear as possible. You should avoid passing a snowplow. The slush kicked up, plus the size of the plow, can make it difficult or impossible to see other vehicles as you pass. If you must pass, make sure it is abundantly safe to do so. Snow plow operators can't see you as well as you can see them.
DON'T: Slam on the brakes or step on the gas if your car goes into a skid.
If your vehicle skids, steer into the skid, which will be the direction the rear of the vehicle is going. Once your car stops skidding, gently straighten the steering wheel and proceed in your intended direction of travel.
DON'T: Use your phone or get distracted.
Distracted driving is always dangerous. It remains dangerous in poor weather. Snow and rain require you as the driver to practice patience and maintain focus. That way, you will be better able to respond to situations like loss of traction or another motorist losing control of their vehicle in front of you. So, pledge to put your phone away or turn it to silent until you arrive safely at your destination.
If You Are Involved in an Accident
You deserve justice and an experienced advocate on your side when a careless driver causes you to crash. For a complimentary consultation, please call the experienced Hackensack and Newark accident attorneys at Eisbrouch Marsh at 201-342-5545.