Make It A Safe Winter of Driving in New York
It's eye-opening to realize that one in every five road accidents here are
due to weather conditions. Most are the result of bad road conditions or
poor driving decision-making.
So, as our notorious winter season looms and arrives in New York, it's
worth taking the time to think about how you avoid becoming one of the
There are two important things you need to know: How to prepare your car so
it's as safe as can be on our roads, and how to drive in the safest
possible manner. (Actually, there's a third key point: knowing whether you
should drive at all when the weather is bad).
Prepping Your Auto for Winter
Although it seems like commonsense that we should all ensure our cars are
in peak condition for New York's winter weather, very few people actually
go through the process of running through a formal checklist.
Unless you're car savvy, it's a good idea to have a mechanic check your
car. According to New York City's emergency management team, this should
Windshield wipers and washer fluid
Lights (headlamps and hazard lights)
Exhaust system, heater, brakes, defroster
- Oil level (if necessary, replace oil with a winter oil or SAE 10w/30
Also, check your tire tread and suitability for winter driving. All-weather
radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions. However, some
jurisdictions require vehicles to be equipped with chains or snow tires
with studs. Don't overinflate tires -- they're more susceptible to skids.
An Emergency Supply Kit
It's also a wise idea to put together a kit that you can keep in the car
and use if you ever get stranded.
You should already have and store in the car a first aid kit. Make sure
it's fully stocked. You should also have a flashlight and extra batteries
in the car at all times.
Then, thinking about what to have in your car during winter months, add in
other essentials like blankets, extra warm clothing, sand or kitty litter
plus a small shovel, to get you moving when stuck in snow or ice. Carry a
set of tire chains or traction mats too.
Don’t forget a selection of small tools, a windscreen scraper, a set of
booster cables and some type of warning signs for other drivers -- a
brightly colored cloth will work but reflective triangles are better.
You should also have food -- preferably some type of high-energy protein
To Drive or not to Drive?
The most important rule when the weather seriously affects road and traffic
conditions is not to drive unless you have to.
Of course, that may be easier said than done, especially if you're
commuting in winter months.
In that case, it's important to understand the difference between different
types of weather warnings.
The most severe of these is a Winter Storm Watch, which is
issued by the National Weather Service and usually broadcast by local radio
and TV, as well as through online bulletins.
It's usually issued 24 to 36 hours in advance -- enough time to try to make
alternative arrangements and avoid driving.
Slightly lower down the scale is a Winter Weather Advisory
, which forecasts a threatening combination of snow, freezing rain and
The National Weather Service also issues a Frost/Freeze Warning when temperatures are expected to
stay below freezing for an extended period.
means more than four inches in 12 hours or less.
If you must drive during hazardous conditions, always make sure someone
knows where you're headed.
State transportation and weather experts say the leading cause of death and
injuries during New York winter storms are road accidents.
Their recommended safe winter driving tips emphasize the importance of:
Not driving during winter storms
- Keeping your car clear of ice and snow to ensure good visibility
- Keeping more distance between cars
- Being on the alert for kids, who can be hidden by snowdrifts
- Allowing extra time for your journey and driving more slowly
- Switching on headlights
- Not following too closely behind a snowplow. Ideally don’t pass but, if
you have to, use extreme caution, allowing plenty of space between you and
the vehicle. And remember that the road in front of the plow is going to be
in a far worse state than behind!
- Assuming bridges are slippier even when other roads aren't -- bridge
surfaces freeze faster than other roads
- Having a fully charged cell phone with you (but never use it when you're
- Keeping the gasoline tank full to prevent freeze-up
If you suffer an emergency in your car, such as a blow-out, don't stop in
travel lanes. Drive to the nearest safe location.
If you are trapped in your car by the weather or other traffic, stay inside
and wait to be found. Run the engine for short bursts to stay warm -- but
keep the downwind window open and ensure your exhaust is not blocked by
Even inside the car, you should exercise frequently, moving your limbs as
vigorously as you can to help circulation and keep you warm.
AWD or 4WD?
By the way, some clients ask about whether they need all-wheel drive (AWD)
or 4-wheel drive (4WD) for winter driving in New York.
Actually, though, the most important thing about road stability during
winter is to have suitable tires and to carry chains.
4WD and AWD vehicles do offer better traction than two-wheel vehicles in
certain circumstances but for many drivers on well-cleared roads and short
routes, this may not make a significant difference.
As for the difference between AWD and 4WD for winter vehicles, AWD is
probably the better of the two for most (all but the most extreme) driving
conditions. 4WD is better for off-road.
In addition to these tips, being prepared for tough winter driving
conditions calls for two other essential actions:
First, always try to plan ahead. Listen to weather and traffic forecasts,
consider whether you need to drive at all, and work out your route and
Second, make sure you're adequately insured. Of course, basic liability car
insurance is a legal requirement in New York. But it makes sense to
consider additional auto insurance options to protect your own vehicle (not
just other cars) in the event of a crash.
Accidents happen even to the most careful drivers and sometimes you can end
up in financial trouble even if it's not your fault -- for example if the
other driver turns out to be uninsured.
Talk to your insurance agent now, before winter arrives. If you don’t have
an agent, please get in touch with PRK. We can get you fully protected
quickly and at highly competitive rates. PRK Insurance is your trusted NY Auto Insurance agency! Give us a call today to make sure you and your car are properly protected, 1-516-799-9001.