Anyone who has experienced an Upstate New York winter knows that the season brings additional driving challenges. Since up to 52% of all personal injury claims in the U.S. are caused by motor vehicle accidents, it is well worth your time to review some winter driving safety tips to help you handle all that ice, slush and snow.

Preparing your vehicle for winter

  • Nothing will make a bigger difference than four good snow tires. Because snow tires are designed to stay more flexible in extreme cold conditions, they increase your traction to help you start moving, as well as when you are turning and braking.
  • If you pass on the snow tires, at the very least do not mix radial tires with other types of tires. Different tires lose their flexibility to different degrees in cold conditions, and more importantly, flex differently during turns, which can cause handling issues while turning – especially on slippery roads.
  • Make sure your tires are properly inflated to help with traction, handling and braking distance. Tire pressure drops with the temperature, so as it gets colder it is likely your tires will become underinflated.
  • It may seem contradictory to the season, but you should also check your vehicle’s cooling system. Make sure you have enough, and the right mix, of coolant and water. Improper quantity or mix of coolant can lead to serious engine problems – such as freezing and expansion against the engine block (usually lethal to your engine). The proper quantity and mix of coolant will also help keep your cooling system from rusting.
  • Make sure you have plenty of windshield wiper fluid – you go through it a lot more quickly in the winter, removing that salt buildup on your windshield. You never run out when it is convenient, so keep some extra wiper fluid in your vehicle.
  • Along with the extra wiper fluid, snowbrush and ice scraper, you should also keep flares and some extra winter clothes in your car in case you get stranded somewhere. A shovel, bag of sand, blanket and extra pair of boots are good items to have as well.

Before you head out onto the winter roads

  • Regardless of whether you trudge out into the snow or use a remote starter to warm up your vehicle, you should never let it idle in an enclosed area such as a garage. Deadly carbon monoxide can easily build up before you become aware of it. For the same reason, always make sure your exhaust pipe is not blocked or clogged with snow or ice, since this can cause carbon monoxide to build up inside the vehicle.
  • Keep your gas line from freezing up by keeping your tank at least half full at all times.
  • Your parking brake lines are also susceptible to freezing, so avoid using your parking break if possible in extremely cold conditions.
  • Turn your wipers off before you turn your engine off. If they freeze to your windshield while your vehicle is off, your wiper motor may burn out trying to get them back into the “at rest” position when you start your vehicle back up. You can avoid this altogether, and make scraping snow and ice off your windshield easier the next morning, if you raise the wiper blades up and away from the windshield before you leave your vehicle.

Driving in winter conditions

  • Everything is slower in the winter. Your vehicle takes longer to warm up, get moving, make turns, maneuver, and come to a stop. If you embrace this instead of fighting against it, you will have more success with your vehicle and you will be much safer.
  • Apply gas slowly to start moving and to regain traction and avoid skiddings. Drive slowly and avoid using cruise control so that you can more easily maintain control and give yourself time to maneuver and make adjustments. Apply the brakes slowly to avoid sliding, and avoid cutting in front of other vehicles on the road (especially trucks, which take longer to stop since they are heavier than cars).
  • Inertia is a powerful force, the effects of which become even more pronounced in winter driving. This means that starting from a full stop is a lot more difficult in snow, slush and ice, so avoid this situation when you can. For example, if you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do so.
  • “Look Where You Want to Go and Steer in that Direction”. It sounds obvious, and it is what most of us do on a typical day on the road. However, it really is a great piece of advice to remember when you start to slide or lose control of your vehicle.
  • Finally, remember staying safe on the road is not entirely up to you. Even if you follow all of these tips and maintain control of your vehicle on icy or snow-covered roads, not everyone else will. Do not get overconfident because of your knowledge, driving skills, or your vehicle. Take it slow and easy, and have a safe winter driving season.

If you are involved in motor vehicle accident

If you do get into an accident and you or a loved one is injured, you may be able to recover damages that cover your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and other losses. Call Kelly White Donofrio LLP at 585-232-1415 for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Rochester, NY.