Even though it is important to drive safely year-round, winter normally has the worst and most dangerous driving conditions. Just two Sunday mornings ago, the tri-state area was covered in black ice due to freezing temperatures and rain. There were about 700 accidents throughout and about 53 accidents in New York alone. The FDNY received an overwhelming amount of more that 3,700 emergency calls and had to call in help from neighboring departments. There is a blizzard warning for today and tomorrow and many schools have closed. In these extreme situations, it is best to just stay off the roads.

If you must go out on the roads, however, here are a few accident-prevention tips on how to try to keep you and others around you safe:

1. Clear off any snow or loose objects on your car. Check that your exhaust pipe is not blocked.

When the snow piles up, it is important to clear it off to avoid it flying off and hitting other cars or people while you’re driving. Remember to check your roof to make sure you didn’t leave beverages or other items either. Before you turn on the car, make sure your exhaust pipe is free of debris such as snow and mud. Blocked exhaust pipes could lead to a lethal buildup of carbon monoxide inside of the car.

2. Only warm up your car in open areas.

Contrary to popular belief and practice, it is not really necessary to warm up your car before driving it. A minute is probably the most that you need. Cars were designed to be able to operate in cold weather and you will save gas if you break this habit. If you do warm up your car, do so in an open area to prevent deadly carbon monoxide poisoning which can occur in closed areas.

3. Keep a small snow shovel, snow brush/ice scraper, blanket, flashlight, road flares and first aid kit in the car.

Use these to keep visibility at optimum levels and to avoid getting stuck in the snow. If you do end up in a situation where you need to pull over and wait for help, lay out road flares to warn cars of where you are and stay as warm as possible. Remain in your vehicle as it provides better shelter from the cold and reduces the risk of getting struck by another vehicle.

4. Check your gas, tires and windshield wipers.

Always be aware of the condition of your tires and how much gas is in your tank. Try to constantly keep at least a half-full tank to avoid getting stuck. Good tires are critical to driving safely in wet or icy conditions. Make sure to replace them when the treads wears down. Cracked rubber on old windshield wipers will be less effective in clearing off the snow and ice. If you are in an area that is susceptible to a lot of snow and ice, consider purchasing winter blades, which clear off snow and ice more effectively.

Tip: Adjust your headrest so that is rests behind your head, not your neck, to avoid greater damage from whiplash in the case of an accident.

5. Make sure your headlights are on.

Being able to see and be seen can help prevent accidents whether you’re driving through fog, rain, snow, or during the nighttime. Particularly if you are in a white car in a snowy environment, always keep your headlights on since you blend in with the snow. The use of your headlights is necessary in all types of weather-good or bad.

6. Drive slowly and keep back a greater distance. Beware of black ice and slippery roads.

Wet or icy road conditions cause cars to take a longer distance to come to a stop. Braking early will also aid in accident prevention. Bridges, underpasses, and intersections are usually the first places to form ice, so proceed with caution. Keep greater distances, especially from trucks, so that any snow or ice on their vehicles doesn’t fly off and cause damage to you.

Fog is tricky to drive through as well because of limited visibility, so keep in mind that driving slow can prevent you from driving into another vehicle.

7. Brake and accelerate gently.

It is harder for a vehicle to gain traction on slippery roads. Accelerating and braking suddenly can cause your tires to spin or your vehicle to skid. If your wheels spin from accelerating, let up on the accelerator until traction returns. Avoid making sudden movements with your vehicle.

8. Don’t hit the brakes if you skid.

Although it may be your first reaction, it could actually cause your vehicle to become even more unbalanced. AAA has a great step-by-step instructions and diagrams of what you should do in such a situation. Found here:http://exchange.aaa.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/AAA-How-to-Go-Ice-Snow.pdf

9. Always wear your seatbelt.

The most basic practice of wearing a seatbelt can save you and your passengers’ lives-no matter if they are sitting in the front seats or the back seats. This is usually the first line of defense in accident situations.

10. Drive without distractions.

In any type of weather, your full attention should be on the road. You should never text and drive or talk on the phone. If you talk on the phone, use a hands-free device.

Did you know that texting takes away at least 5 seconds of your attention from the road and if you are driving at 55 mph, you would have driven the length of a football field with your eyes away from the road? Texting and driving raises the possibility of getting into a crash to 23 times more likely. No text message is as important as yours or another person’s life. Be smart and keep focused on the road ahead.

Remember, if you do not absolutely need to go out, then it is better to stay inside until conditions improve. If more people stayed off the roads then the number of accidents may be reduced. Keep in mind not only your safety, but others’ as well.

If you find yourself in an accident and are in need of an attorney to fight for you, you can call us at (718)-380-1010 for a free consultation and expert advice.