By Andrew R. Bronsnick
If driving a car or truck is a responsibility of your job or is simply your mode of transportation, winter weather presents hazards that you need to consider when behind the wheel. With a statewide average of 64.09 inches of precipitation – which includes snow, rain, sleet and hail – NorthJersey.com reported that the state “was pummeled with more precipitation in 2018 than in any other year since record keeping began.”
It’s safe to assume that at least one severe snow storm is on the way, so let’s review some best practices for winter weather driving in New Jersey.
Between a slippery or icy surface and impaired visibility, your attention is needed on the road. Enable the auto-away message on your cell until you can pull over or reach your destination. We’ve discussed how critical it is not to take your eyes off the road for more than two seconds, and that is especially true when nature is part of the equation.
Common sense says to drive slower during inclement weather, especially when your visibility is impaired, and it’s during these scenarios that you can lose control of your vehicle. If you must be on the road during, or in the aftermath of a storm, drive slower than the posted speed limit and mitigate the risks of your vehicle losing contact with the road.
When there is snow on the ground, your vehicle will drive differently than normal. The Insurance Information Institute offers these common-sense tips for safe winter driving:
- Make sure that your tires have good tread and keep them properly inflated. Both are essential to safe winter driving. And while all-weather tires are sufficient for some, if the conditions in your area tend towards snow and ice, consider winterizing your car with snow tires.
- Check your exhaust pipe to make sure it is clear. A blocked pipe could cause a leakage of carbon monoxide gas into your car when the engine is running.
- Pack your trunk for emergencies. A snow shovel and a bag of salt (or kitty litter) will help you dig your wheels out of a ditch and give them traction on snow or ice; a blanket will keep you warm and bottles of water will keep you hydrated in case you get stuck. An emergency kit with smaller items like flares and jumper cables will be invaluable year-round, as well.
Driving for Work
Whether you are part of a fleet or a professional who needs to be in the field, driving for work has several inherent risks. Icy conditions unfortunately add to the challenges of getting from one place to another.
OSHA encourages employers to ensure properly trained workers’ inspect the following vehicle systems to determine if they are working properly:
- Brakes: Brakes should provide even and balanced braking. Also check that brake fluid is at the proper level.
- Cooling System: Ensure a proper mixture of 50/50 antifreeze and water in the cooling system at the proper level.
- Electrical System: Check the ignition system and make sure that the battery is fully charged and that the connections are clean. Check that the alternator belt is in good condition with proper tension.
- Tires: Check for proper tread depth and no signs of damage or uneven wear. Check for proper tire inflation.
- Oil: Check that oil is at a proper level.
- Visibility Systems: Inspect all exterior lights, defrosters (windshield and rear window), and wipers and wiper fluid. Install winter windshield wipers.
Ultimately, if you feel your trip will be unsafe due to weather and snow hazards, raise your concern to your employer. Staying off the road may be the best strategy until conditions improve.
If you or a loved one has been injured in any traffic or transportation accident in New Jersey, you need an experienced lawyer to present your injuries during insurance matters and Workers’ Compensation hearings. We’ll also prepare and file any required documents with the insurance companies and will be your voice in all court proceedings. Having an attorney will better ensure that you receive maximum compensation for your injuries.