Terrifying car accidents in wintry weather, such as those that occurred as a result of this winter season’s first major snow storm – dubbed “The Bomb Cyclone” – which hit the New York metropolitan area in January, have killed nearly 4,000 Americans over the past five years, a new survey found. Survivors recount scary tales of cars and trucks flying like huge missiles around them.
“While we usually think of tornadoes or floods as the deadliest weather hazards,” Jay W. Dankner, Managing Partner of the New York auto accident and injury law firm of Dankner Milstein, P.C. said, “car accidents kill more Americans each year than any other weather danger. And winter weather can create especially deadly risks for drivers.”
Mr. Dankner’s law firm urges New York City residents to exercise particular caution when driving, running, walking or biking when snow is falling, or temperatures drop below freezing. Freezing temperatures can cause treacherous icing conditions even after the snow settles or melts. In the State of Connecticut alone, State Police said troopers responded to about 345 motor vehicle accidents as heavy snowfall combined with 50-mile-an-hour winds to create near whiteout and drifting conditions.
Safety Tips for Driving In Snowy and Icy Conditions
- Exercise caution and avoid slippery surfaces; some ice may not be visible.
- Wear sturdy boots that provide traction to reduce slipping. Use handrails when using stairs. Seniors should take extra care outdoors to avoid slips and falls from icy conditions.
- Drive slowly. Vehicles take longer to stop on snow and ice than on dry pavement.
- Use major streets or highways for travel where possible.
- Install good winter tires that have adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions.
- Four-wheel drive vehicles may make it easier to drive on snow-covered roads, but they do not stop quicker than other vehicles.
- Know your vehicle’s braking system. Vehicles with anti-lock brakes require a different braking technique than vehicles without anti-lock brakes in icy or snowy conditions.
- If you are driving and begin to skid, ease your foot off the gas and steer in the direction you want the front of the car to go. Straighten the wheel when the car moves in the desired direction. If you have an anti-lock braking system (ABS), apply steady pressure to the brake pedal. Never pump the brakes on an ABS equipped vehicle.
- Try to keep your vehicle’s gas tank as full as possible.
- Keep the name and phone number of at least one local towing service in your car (or sign-up for AAA membership) in case you break down or become stuck.
- If you get stuck on the road, stay with your car and contact a towing company, or AAA.
- Make sure to have a mechanic check the following items on your vehicle:
- Windshield wipers and washer fluid
- Ignition system
- Thermostat Lights (headlamps and hazard lights)
- Exhaust system, heater, brakes, defroster
- Oil level (if necessary, replace oil with a winter grade oil or SAE 10w/30 variety.
Assemble an Emergency Supply Kit for your vehicle, and consider adding the following items for winter conditions:
- Blankets, sleeping bags, extra newspapers for insulation.
- Extra mittens, socks, scarves and hat, rain gear and extra clothes.
- Sack of sand or kitty litter for gaining traction under wheels, small shovel.
- Set of tire chains or traction mats.
- Working jack and lug wrench, spare tire.
- Windshield scraper, broom.
- Small tools (pliers, wrench, screwdriver).
- Booster cables.
- Brightly colored cloth to use as a flag, flares or reflective triangles.
Further Safety Tips for New York Metro Residents
Residents are also encouraged to take the following precautions during extreme cold:
- Stay indoors as much as possible.
- If you have to go outdoors, wear dry, warm clothing and cover exposed skin. Keep fingertips, earlobes, and noses covered.
- Wear a hat, hood, or scarf, as most heat is lost through the head.
- Shivering is an important first sign that the body is losing heat. Shivering is a signal to return indoors.
- Drinking alcohol may make you think you feel warmer, but it actually increases your chances of hypothermia and frostbite.
- Follow your doctor’s advice about performing hard work in the cold if you have heart disease or high blood pressure. Cold weather puts an extra strain on the heart. Remember, your body is already working hard just to stay warm, so don’t overdo it.
For more winter weather safety tips, Jay Dankner advises New York area residents to view NYC Emergency Management’s video or visit NYC.gov/EmergencyManagement. New Yorkers are also encouraged to sign up for Notify NYC, the city’s free emergency notification system. “Through Notify NYC,” Dankner explained, “New Yorkers can receive phone calls, text messages, and email alerts about winter weather conditions and other emergencies. To sign up for Notify NYC, call 311, visit NYC.gov/notifynyc, or follow @NotifyNYC on Twitter.”