3 ways New Yorkers can reduce their risk of winter driving accidents

New Yorkers can lower their risk of winter weather-related crashes by maintaining their vehicles properly, using caution and driving carefully near plows.

Most people in New York City are accustomed to driving in challenging conditions during winter. Unfortunately, this doesn't fully eliminate their risk of experiencing accidents. According to Syracuse Media Group, one recent study reveals that over 800 lives are lost yearly in the U.S. during winter weather-related accidents. A disproportionate number of these fatal car crashes occur in Upstate New York; between 1975 and 2011, over 2,700 deaths were reported in the region.

Tragically, many winter accidents may involve preventable mistakes on the part of drivers. This makes it essential for motorists to be familiar with the proactive measures that can help them reduce their risk of these seasonal accidents.

1. Vehicle maintenance

In preparation for winter commutes, drivers should ensure that various components of their vehicles have been serviced or inspected. Antifreeze and washer fluid should be topped off, according to the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee, and the effectiveness of heaters and defrosters should be tested ahead of time. Additionally, motorists should confirm that their tires have enough tread depth to provide traction.

During inclement weather, a few precautions can also help drivers reduce their risk of experiencing accidents. Drivers should clear all snow and ice from their vehicles to prevent the precipitation from striking other vehicles, blocking visibility or becoming a distraction. The removal of all precipitation, salt and sand from the headlights can also lower the likelihood of accidents occurring as a result of limited visibility.

2. Deliberate driving

When operating their vehicles during inclement weather, motorists should always employ greater caution than they would under normal driving conditions. The GTSC recommends that drivers make the following adjustments:

  • Reduce speed to accommodate road conditions and surrounding traffic.

  • Be aware of potentially dangerous areas, such as bridges and elevated ramps, which typically freeze before other road surfaces.

  • Allow a greater following distance and closely monitor the actions of other drivers to reduce the risk of rear-end collisions.

By steering, accelerating and braking more gently, drivers can minimize the risk of traction loss, according to The New York Daily News. Drivers also should remember that four-wheel drive can promote a false sense of confidence, since it does not improve a vehicle's ability to stop.

3. Proper plow etiquette

During winter commutes, motorists should know what precautions to take when driving near snowplows, which can introduce unique hazards. Plows may make unexpected maneuvers and produce blowing snow that limits visibility, according to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Plow blades also may extend further out than other drivers realize. As a result, drivers should not follow closely behind plows or attempt to pass them.

Accident preparedness

Finally, drivers should remember that these precautions might not prevent every accident. Motorists may be especially powerless to avoid accidents that unfold due to the carelessness of other people. However, in these situations, legal remedies may be available.

In New York, the victims of auto accidents may be able to seek recourse from the at-fault drivers, even if their own actions contributed in some way to the crash. To learn more about their rights and the process of making a personal injury claim, victims may benefit from calling a New York car accident attorney.