Winter in New Jersey brings below-freezing temperatures, treacherous roadways, and skyrocketing accident rates. While most of us think we’re prepared to drive in these conditions, when severe weather strikes, it’s important to have thorough knowledge of how to respond in the safest way possible.
In Buttafuoco & Associates’ Driving Safety Guide, you’ll learn why winter is so dangerous, how to drive on snow and ice, and how to identify and navigate black ice.
Even with precautions, accidents happen, and they’re more likely to be severe in winter. If you experience a crash, a car accident attorney in Northern New Jersey may be able to help.
Get in touch at 1-800-NOW-HURT.
Winter Driving Accident Statistics
On average, there are over 6,301,000 vehicle crashes each year. 24% percent of these crashes— approximately 1,511,000 — are weather-related. Weather-related crashes are defined as those crashes that occur in adverse weather (i.e., rain, sleet, snow, and/or fog) or on slick pavement (i.e., wet pavement, snowy/slushy pavement, or icy pavement).
As you can imagine, winter is particularly dangerous when it comes to unsafe road conditions.
In fact, snow and sleet are responsible for 225,000 car crashes each year, wherein 70,900 people are injured and 870 people are killed. While slushy conditions may not seem particularly threatening, 168,300 car accidents occur in these conditions annually, resulting in 47,700 injured persons and 620 deaths.
In terms of ice, 190,100 car accidents occur annually during icy conditions, resulting in 62,700 persons injured and 680 deaths.
As you can see, the potential for these accidents to cause life-altering injuries is high. In cases of serious injuries, it is often in your best interest to consult with a Northern New Jersey personal injury attorney.
How to Drive in Snow and Ice – Driving Safety Tips
The best advice for driving in bad winter weather is not to drive at all when possible.
At minimum, don’t drive until snow plows and sanding trucks have had a chance to do their work, and allow yourself extra time to reach your destination. If you must drive in snowy conditions, make sure your car is prepared, and that you know how to handle road conditions.
There’s a higher rate of car accident injuries at the beginning of a snow season, so make sure to.
It’s helpful to practice winter driving techniques in a snowy, open parking lot, so you’re familiar with how your car handles. It’s also advisable to consult your owner’s manual for tips specific to your vehicle.
The following tips are intended for typical snow and ice.
Driving Safely on Icy Roads
- Decrease your speed and leave yourself plenty of stopping distance. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.
- Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your wheels start to lock up, ease off the brake pedal.
- Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other motorists.
- Keep your lights and windshield clean.
- Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.
- Don’t use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.
- Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads, which will freeze first. Even at temperatures above freezing, if the conditions are wet, you might encounter ice in shady areas or on exposed roadways like bridges.
- Don’t pass snow plows and sanding trucks. The drivers have limited visibility, and you’re likely to find the road in front of them worse than the road behind.
- Don’t assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Even front wheel and four wheel drive vehicles can encounter trouble on winter roads.
If Your Rear Wheels Skid
- Take your foot off the accelerator.
- Steer in the same direction you want the front wheels to go. If your rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. If they’re sliding right, steer right.
- If your rear wheels start sliding the other way as you recover, ease the steering wheel toward that side. You might have to steer left and right a few times to get your vehicle completely under control.
- If you have standard brakes, pump them gently.
- If you have an anti-lock braking system (ABS), do not pump the brakes. Apply steady pressure to the brakes. You will feel the brakes pulse — this is normal.
If Your Front Wheels Skid
- Take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral, but don’t try to steer immediately.
- As the wheels skid sideways, they will slow the vehicle and traction will return. As it does, steer in the direction you want to go. Then put the transmission in “drive” or release the clutch, and accelerate gently.
If You Get Stuck
- Do not spin your wheels. This will only dig you in deeper.
- Turn your wheels from side to side a few times to push snow out of the way.
- Use a light touch on the gas, to ease your car out.
- Use a shovel to clear snow away from the wheels and the underside of the car.
- Pour sand, kitty litter, gravel or salt in the path of the wheels, to help regain traction.
- Try rocking the vehicle. (Check your owner’s manual first — it can damage the transmission on some vehicles.) Shift from forward to reverse, and back again. Each time you’re in gear, give a light touch on the gas.
Driving Protocols for Black Ice
Black ice is a very specific weather situation that requires a significant modification to how you drive. It is extraordinarily difficult to negotiate roads when a layer of black ice has formed. Because traction is compromised during these roadway conditions, you will need to modify your driving style.
What Causes Black Ice?
- Roadside snow banks melting during the day can create a thin layer of water by the roadside that can turn to ice as the temperature drops later in the afternoon. On a hill or curve, the black ice can stretch across the entire roadway.
- Plowing often leaves a layer of snow between tire tracks on the road surface that can melt during the day and refreeze as black ice at night. Sidewalks and bike paths may have snow on the uphill side, which melts and refreezes.
- Bridges and overpasses are prime territory for black ice, because air temperature beneath the bridge can drop lower than the ground temperature beneath the road. Highway departments are often reluctant to deposit salt on bridges to avoid the corrosive effects on the bridge’s metal, making bridges even more treacherous.
- Underpasses can also be prone to black ice, because they generally get no sunlight. If the underpass is at the base of a descent, water will naturally pool there creating a dangerous “black ice” zone.
- Car’s tailpipe spits out condensation (water). Be cautious of black ice around areas where cars have been idling, for example, at traffic lights or in driveways.
Black Ice Driving Tips
If you do encounter Black ice, it is important to know how to navigate your car. Here are several points to consider:
- First, being mindful of where black ice can form, and under what conditions, is critical in avoiding potential dangerous spots.
- If you do find yourself on ice it is important to stay calm. If/when possible, coast in a straight line (no braking, turning, or accelerating) until you’ve reached a dry portion of roadway or pavement.
- When turning a vehicle on ice, take it slowly so you can keep your car as upright as possible. Leaning into a turn requires a lot of lateral traction to keep your tires connected to the road. Without that traction on ice, your tires will quickly lose their grip and you may find yourself having a direct encounter with the ice.
- If you must brake, ONLY use your rear brakes. This will keep your front tire rolling and in the best possible contact with the road surface. The idea is to maximize your steering traction.
- If you have and use a single studded tire, it is recommended to mount it on the front wheel because that will ensure better traction where you need it most—for steering. If you anticipate ice on a road it is recommended to have a spare tire with studs.
The possible presence of black ice doesn’t mean to stop driving. It does mean to be more cautious. Proper attention to the conditions that create black ice, avoiding turning or braking (when you can), and using the turning/braking techniques discussed above (when you must), will help when driving in icy conditions.