While winter might bring breathtaking snowscapes, it also introduces challenging and potentially dangerous driving conditions. This is particularly true for regions that see severe winter weather each year, like Syracuse in Central New York. Here, the winter season is often linked to a surge in car accidents due to icy roads, diminished visibility, and challenges with traction in snowy and slushy conditions.
For Central New York residents, understanding and anticipating these risks is not just advisable; it is essential for safeguarding against the possibility of an accident.
Several factors contribute to car accidents in Central New York and the Southern Tier during winter. Many collisions arise from excessive speed, drivers not adapting to road conditions, and limited visibility caused by snow and fog.
Speeding is a major concern during the winter months. According to the Federal Highway Administration, 24% of weather-related crashes happen on slushy, snowy, or icy pavement, injuring nearly 116,800 people annually. In inclement weather, speed can increase stopping distance, making accidents more likely for those over the speed limit.
In 2021, a winter storm hit Central New York, resulting in 45 crashes in Onondaga County alone. The area saw slick highways that caused spinouts, slide-offs, and a jackknifed tractor-trailer, and in many of these accidents, excessive speed was a contributing factor. The loss of traction in these conditions means drivers should slow down and leave more space between themselves and other vehicles to avoid accidents.
- Failure to Adjust to Conditions
Accidents frequently occur when drivers fail to adapt their driving habits to winter weather conditions. This includes not slowing down, following too closely, or not allowing for longer stopping distances on icy roads.
- Poor Visibility Due to Snow/Fog
Winter driving can mean dealing with impaired visibility due to snow and fog. Low visibility generally results in a reduced speed of drivers on the road by 10% to 12%, but this doesn’t necessarily mean the risks are totally mitigated.
In foggy and snowy conditions, drivers often struggle to see other vehicles, traffic signals, or road signs, leading to dangerous situations. Between 2007 and 2016, the Federal Highway Administration reported 25,451 crashes due to fog, resulting in 8,902 people injured and 464 fatalities.
In blizzard-like conditions, snow can reduce visibility to less than ¼ mile for up to 3 hours. A severe snowstorm in 2020 led to 500 crashes and disabled vehicles throughout New York State and resulted in a tractor-trailer rollover in which the driver was killed.
Poor visibility requires drivers to slow down, pay attention to their surroundings, and perhaps most importantly, use defensive driving techniques to avoid collisions and prevent injuries.
To navigate winter roads confidently and safely, prepare your vehicle and plan your route before heading out. Here are a few driving tips for icy, snowy conditions:
- Prepare your vehicle. Ensure that your vehicle is winter-ready. Check your tires for adequate tread, ensure responsive brakes, and install winter windshield wipers. Consider using winter tires for enhanced traction.
- Slow down. Adjust your speed according to road conditions.
- Increase following distance. Allow for longer braking distances on slippery roads.
- Clear all snow and ice. Ensure windows, mirrors, lights, and roof are free of obstructions.
- Use headlights. Increase visibility for yourself and others, even during daylight. Avoid using high beams in fog, as it can make it more difficult to see.
- Avoid sudden maneuvers. Make gradual turns and avoid abrupt stops or accelerations.
- Stay informed. Check weather forecasts and road conditions before traveling.
- Prepare an emergency kit. Include a snow shovel, blankets, snacks, water, sand/ice melt, and a flashlight.
- Avoid cruise control. Manually control your speed, especially on icy roads.
- Stay home if necessary. If conditions are too treacherous, it’s best to avoid driving.
If you are involved in a winter-weather car accident, you may need legal representation for your case. Due to the complex nature of these collisions, our car accident attorneys at Catalano Law can review your crash to determine if another person’s actions are responsible for your injuries.
We can help you receive personal injury protection benefits and file a compensation claim against the other driver. Contact us today for a free consultation, and let us help you with your next steps after a winter-weather crash.