Driving in New York City and surrounding areas is rife with potential dangers. Whether you’re behind the wheel of a car weaving through mid-town traffic, on expressways heading into or out of the city, or traversing the City on foot or on a Citi Bike, accidents involving motor vehicles happen every day. To drivers behind the wheel of a car or truck and to those who don’t even carry a driver’s license and get around town using mass transportation, danger lurks on every street, avenue, and intersection. Even under the best weather conditions, driving requires a motorist’s full attention and best judgment. And come winter, this is especially true when temperatures drop below freezing and snow starts to fall. Then a whole new set of rules and regulations emerge and icy roadways require hyper-vigilance on the part of motorists and pedestrians alike.
With winter only a few weeks away, Dankner Milstein, P.C., the top midtown auto accident injury law firm in New York City, presents these important safety tips for drivers. This information was prepared by The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and has been revised by the editor of this blog post as a public service to our readers.
HOW TO DRIVE IN WINTER
Winter is the most difficult season in which to drive. In addition to snow and ice on the roads, there are fewer hours of daylight.
Before winter weather arrives, make sure your vehicle is in good condition. During ice or snowstorms, do not drive unless you must. Make sure your vehicle has good snow or all-weather tires. Put them on the vehicle before the first storm.
At night, you must use extra caution to make up for reduced visibility. 90% of the causes of accidents when driving in the evening are based on what you have difficulty seeing. Be sure to wear the prescription glasses you got from your eye doctor that improve night vision. The ability to see well at night decreases with age. So as you age it’s important to have your eyes examined annually by a medical professional.
Night driving, especially in snowy conditions, is more dangerous because the distance you can see ahead or to the side is reduced. You should drive slower than you would in daylight, especially in areas that are not known or on narrow roads with many curves. Your headlights cover about 350 feet ahead. It is important that you drive at a speed that allows you to stop safely within that distance. This is called “driving within the range” of your headlights.
The law requires you to use your headlights from one-half hour after the sun sets to one-half hour before the sun rises when visibility is less than 1,000 feet and when you use your windshield wipers to clear rain, snow or sleet. Turn your headlights on at dawn, dusk and in fog.
If you must drive, first clear the ice and snow from your vehicle. Make sure all safety features on your vehicle including the headlights and backlights, the windshield wipers and all of the windows are in proper working order. Make sure the windshield washer reservoir is filled with a cleaning solution that resists freezing. Drive slowly. Even if your vehicle has good traction in ice and snow. Other drivers will travel with caution. Do not break the flow of traffic by driving faster than other vehicles
DRIVING IN RAIN, FOG OR SNOW
Rain, fog or snow make it harder to see through your windshield, and difficult for other drivers to see you. New York State law requires you to turn on your headlights when the weather conditions require the use of windshield wipers to clear rain,
snow, sleet or fog. “Daytime lights” do not qualify as headlights.
Headlights on high beams reflect rain, fog, and snow as it falls. This makes it even harder for you to see. For better visibility during these weather conditions, keep your headlights on low beam. Reduce your speed. Signal your turns further ahead of time to give other drivers and roadway users more warnings. Brake early when you decrease speed behind another vehicle or come to an intersection stop. You can also shift into a lower gear. When sleet, freezing rain or snow begins to fall, remember that bridges, ramps, and overpasses will freeze first.
Tire blowout – A thumping sound can be a warning that a blowout is about to occur. If you hear it, get safely off the road and check your tires. If a tire blows out, hold the steering wheel tight and slowly take your foot off the gas pedal. If your vehicle skids, handle it as you would on ice or snow. Do not use your brake until your vehicle is controlled. Leave the road when it is safe to do so.
Before you travel on an expressway, identify your entrance and exit points on a road map. Know where you want to get on and off before you travel on an expressway by identifying your entrance and exit points on a road map or on your GPS device. Be prepared to get into the correct lanes for your entrance and exit. If you enter an expressway going a different direction than you intended, or at the wrong exit, stay on the expressway until the next exit. You normally enter or exit the expressway on-ramps. The speed limit on-ramps normally range from 25-to-55 mph, but at times can be posted at 65 mph in some rural areas.
It is dangerous to back up on an entrance or exit ramp or to try to cross a median.
Unless there is a STOP or YIELD sign or traffic light on the entrance ramp, use the ramp to accelerate to expressway speed and blend with traffic. Signal, then look over your shoulder for traffic already on the expressway. If necessary, slow down to safely merge into traffic.
If the entrance lane is too short to allow acceleration to expressway speed, the safest method to enter is to stop and wait for a large space in traffic. Then enter the expressway and accelerate quickly.
If your vehicle suddenly will not respond when you steer, slowly take your foot off the gas pedal, turn on your emergency lights and keep your foot off the brake pedal while it is safe to do so. The balance of the vehicle will allow it to continue going straight, but a sudden change in speed could send it out of control. As the vehicle decreases speed, you can brake very carefully to bring it to a stop.
If your brake pedal suddenly goes to the floor, try pumping it to increase pressure. If that does not help, use your emergency or parking brake – but use it gently. If you shift to a lower gear, it will help your vehicle decrease speed.
If your headlights suddenly go out, try your emergency lights, parking lights and directional signals. These may continue to work and can give you enough light to leave the roadway safely. If your headlights begin to dim, drive to a service station or pull off the road and go for help.
Stuck gas pedal
Hook your shoe under the pedal and see if you can free it. If not, shift into neutral and use the brake to slow your vehicle and get off the road. Do not turn off the ignition if your vehicle has power steering or a steering wheel that has a column that locks, because if you do, you will lose your power steering.
Running off the pavement
If your wheels move off the pavement, do not pull the steering wheel back. Ease your foot off the gas pedal and brake gently. When your vehicle has decreased speed, check for traffic behind you, then turn carefully back onto the pavement.
For more information, or if you have been in an auto accident and are injured, contact the top New York auto accident injury law firm of Dankner Milstein, P.C. by calling 212-751-8000. Or you can E-mail one of the firm’s lawyers for a free consultation.