In places like New York, seasons bring more than just a change of scenery - they can also dictate how we drive and the types of hazards we must contend with when on the open road.
Because motorists have year-round obligations to exercise care when operating their vehicles, every driver should be mindful of seasonal driving dangers and the steps to prepare for them accordingly.
Weather-Related Crash Statistics
A focus on safety is especially important during the winter and spring months when seasonal conditions can substantially increase risks for motor vehicle accidents.
- Approximately 17% of all vehicle crashes occur during winter conditions.
- Nearly a quarter of all vehicle crashes – over 1.23 million each year – are weather-related.
- Weather conditions cause an average of nearly 5,000 deaths and 418,000 injuries annually, with snow and icy roads responsible for roughly 1,800 deaths and 136,000 injuries each year.
- Most weather-related crashes involve rain and / or wet roads; 70% occur on wet pavement and 46% during active rainfall.
- Winter conditions also account for a significant number of weather-related crashes; 18% happen in snow or sleet, 13% on icy pavement, and 16% on snowy or slushy pavement.
- Roughly 3% of weather-related crashes occur in the presence of fog.
Winter / Spring Driving Hazards
Given the risks associated with these hazards, it is important for drivers to know how seasonal conditions can impact their driving. During winter and spring, motorists should be on the lookout for:
- Weather: Winter and spring bring significant weather-related hazards, including heavy rainfall, snow, ice, sleet, fog, and other inclement weather patterns that can make roads slick and reduce visibility. Wet or icy pavement can also increase the time needed for vehicles to come to a full stop and increase the risks of hydroplaning or skidding, especially at higher speeds.
- Animals and wildlife crossing: Seasonal patterns involving wildlife can make for increased hazards on local roads. According to the NYSDOT, for example, a large portion of the 60,000 to 70,000 moose- and deer-vehicle collisions that occur throughout the state each year happen between the months of October and January.
- Vehicle maintenance: Whether it involves preparing a vehicle for winter weather or a spring road trip, motorists should regularly maintain their vehicles and make adjustments for any seasonal changes. This includes switching to snow tires, keeping tire chains on hand, and inspecting or replacing windshield wipers.
- Construction: Better weather during spring means more construction. For projects located on or near roads, motorists must remember that construction zones can be filled with potential hazards, including changes in traffic patterns, roadblocks, debris and falling objects, unpredictable pedestrian traffic, and reduced speed limits.
- Motorcyclists and cyclists: Local roads see more motorcycles and bicycles starting in spring, and, unfortunately, more accidents involving inattentive drivers. In areas with high foot traffic or bicyclists, drivers should take care to reduce their speed, be hyper aware of their surroundings and regularly check their mirrors and blind spots.
Driving & Vehicle Preparedness Safety Tips
To keep yourself, your passengers, and those around you safe this winter and spring, it’s wise to brush up on winter driving safety, spring and summer driving hazards, and smart ways to get prepared for vehicle emergencies.
A few helpful tips to keep in mind:
Prepare & Plan Ahead
- Keep up with vehicle maintenance and bring your car in for a tune-up, especially when seasons change and when planning long road trips.
- Keep the gas tank full in case there is an unanticipated emergency. A full tank can also help prevent fuel lines from freezing.
- Regularly check your tire pressure, and change to snow tires or tire chains when weather conditions worsen.
- Plan ahead before heading out. Make sure to check the weather, road conditions, and traffic and allow enough time to get to your destination safely.
- Pack a roadside emergency kit and keep it in your vehicle at all times. Your kit can include tools for emergencies in any season, such as a spare blanket and extra coat, food and water, a folding shovel, and kitty litter, which can help dislodge a wheel stuck in the mud.
- Take time to get comfortable driving in poor weather, especially if you have a younger driver on your hands or a new vehicle. You can practice on roads with minimal traffic or in parking lots.
Practice Safe Driving Behaviors
- Reduce your speed in adverse weather conditions so you have enough time to react to unexpected events and to slow down, stop, or turn without skidding.
- Increase your following distance in adverse weather and turn on your vehicle’s lights, especially when visibility is reduced by rain, snow, or fog.
- Resist the temptation to engage in distractions or use a cell phone behind the wheel, and reconsider driving after having any alcoholic drinks. Slowed reaction time and winter weather can significantly increase crash risks.
- Skip the cruise control in poor weather, as it can increase the chance of losing control of the vehicle and prevent you from staying focused on all aspects of your driving.
- If your vehicle begins to skid, don’t panic. Continue to look and steer in the direction you want the vehicle to go and avoid slamming on the brakes, which can compromise the vehicle’s balance and make it more difficult to control.
As a law firm that has represented numerous auto accident victims over the past four decades, The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., knows vehicle crashes occur at every time of year. However, we also see marked increases in crashes involving seasonal safety hazards and how negligence can exacerbate those risks. Fortunately, those who are injured by the negligence of others have the right to seek compensation for their losses by pursuing a personal injury claim.
If you have questions about your legal options following a preventable vehicle crash, our award-winning attorneys can review your case and discuss how we may be able to help. We offer FREE consultations and serve clients across NYC.