There are always dangers on the roadways, but traffic fatalities surge during this time of year as road conditions worsen. During winter driving season, all drivers should remember to exercise caution and prepare themselves and their cars for any potentially hazardous weather to come.
CNN reported more than 7,600 people died in auto accidents in the U.S. during the first quarter of 2012. In addition, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has estimated that drivers are 36 percent more likely to be in a car accident in January than July.
“The majority of car crashes occur as the result of some level of inattentiveness,” Anapol Weiss auto accident attorney Jim Ronca explained. “Sometimes it’s misjudging the conditions and at other times it’s not tending to the vehicle’s roadworthiness. Stopping distances are much longer on wet or snow covered road surfaces. On ice, you cannot stop at all, even with anti-lock brakes. If we want to make our roadways safer, we have to be alert at all times and slow down.”
Ice and snow can quickly create hazardous road conditions, so vehicle preparation is necessary to successfully navigate winter roads. A mechanic should ensure a vehicle’s brakes, tires, battery, hoses and belts are working properly before the weather worsens. In addition to getting a vehicle checkup, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) suggests the following actions to prepare for the winter:
- Check fluid levels to prevent unnecessary breakdowns.
- Ensure windshield wipers are in good condition or install winter wiper blades.
- Test the heater and defroster.
- Check that the radio can receive weather and traffic reports.
- Make sure all lights are working.
- Ensure tires are adequately inflated and have enough tread depth. In heavy snow areas, snow tires or a set of tire chains are a good idea.
Just Drive PA recommends packing a winter emergency travel kit in the car, which should include:
- First aid supplies
- Flashlight and batteries
- Battery-operated radio
- Jumper cables
- Cell phone charger
- Ice scraper
- Snow shovel
- Bottled water
- Anything else that would accommodate the driver and passengers in an emergency on the road
Drivers should use extra caution in traffic, on bridges and ramps, and around snow plows. Keeping cars clear of snow and ice as often as possible is also necessary. According to Pennsylvania State law, if snow or ice from a vehicle strikes another vehicle or person and causes injury, the driver can be ticketed.
It’s important to exercise common sense in winter driving conditions to navigate hazardous roads as safely as possible.