Every winter, there are a few days where weather catches drivers unaware, moving in quickly and snarling traffic for hours. In such a situation, and in many other day-to-day instances during the snowy New Jersey winters, you may be in for a miserable drive. Minimize your risk of injury, property damage, and unnecessary delay by following these winter driving tips.
Plan for the Road Ahead
Make sure your vehicle is packed with safety necessities and practical items before you leave the house. (See our list of essentials to keep in your car for a good start.) Some of the most important things to have in the winter are cold-weather gear (like gloves, blankets, and hand warmers), safety equipment for your car (ice scraper, chains, jumper cables, flashlight/headlamp, and flares), and items to keep you comfortable and connected (food and water, a game or something to read, and a cell phone charger). It’s a good idea to keep your gas tank topped off so you don’t run out of fuel if you’re stuck in traffic for many hours; consider carrying a container with extra gas as an additional precautionary measure.
Before you head out onto the road, let your car fully defrost, which allows you maximum visibility out of all windows. This is not only safety advice—in New Jersey, it’s the law! Scrape off your headlights and taillights to ensure your car is as visible as possible to other vehicles. Do a preemptive examination of your car before the worst weather hits, changing fluids and topping off coolant, replacing worn wiper blades, and checking that your battery, charging system, and belts are in good condition. Make sure your tires have adequate tread, or think about switching them for winter studded or studless traction models if appropriate for your driving habits. Check that your car tires are inflated properly (including the spare), since cold air causes your tire pressure to drop about one pound per 10 degrees Fahrenheit; underinflated tires make your car much more difficult to handle.
On the Road: Safety First
Part of being a safe winter driver is practicing some good winter driving habits. Travel at a safe speed—everything takes longer in the snow, including stopping, accelerating, and turning. Don’t make last-minute decisions like cutting in front of other drivers or swerving into a lane that appears to be going faster; illuminate your turn signals for lane changes and well before you start to slow down in anticipation of a turn. Tap your brakes as you slow to better indicate to traffic behind you that you are braking, and leave much more distance behind the car ahead of you than in dry conditions (AAA recommends allowing 8-10 seconds of following distance, more than double the ordinary recommended 3-4 seconds). Equip your vehicle with chains or snow tires when they are warranted (and practice installing them before you have to do so in a snow emergency). A bag of kitty litter or sand can help weigh down the rear of a rear wheel drive vehicle, improving control and helping to avoid fishtailing; the contents can also be spread under the wheels to improve traction if you become stuck. If you find yourself sliding or skidding, take your feet off the pedals (both the accelerator and the brake), and steer as gently as possible in the direction you’d like to go. As you begin to regain traction and steering control, brake gently (if the front wheels are skidding) or accelerate gently (if the rear wheels are skidding). The number one rule of safe winter driving is patience!
What to Do If You Are in an Auto Accident
Despite your best efforts, it’s sometimes impossible for you to avoid an accident. If you are involved in or witness an auto accident in New Jersey, contact the authorities immediately. If you can safely offer medical assistance to someone in distress, you can do so without fear of reprisal—state “Good Samaritan” laws protect you from being sued. Accidents involving a driver sliding into one or more parked cars are also common in slippery winter conditions. If you see a collision between a vehicle and a parked car, or if your car was hit while parked, read our advice on parked car collisions.
If you are involved in an accident, call the Mark Law Firm. Our experienced personal injury lawyers will help you recover what you deserve for your injuries. Download our free guide with step-by-step instructions for what to do if you are in an auto accident by clicking the image below, then print it out and keep it in your glovebox!
To schedule an appointment with one of the experienced New Jersey personal injury lawyers at our Basking Ridge, Oradell, or Newark, New Jersey, offices, contact us online or call us at 973-447-4494, 908-375-6767, or 201-431-7541.