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26 November 2014

Winter In The City: Driving Tips For Snowy Streets

Storm clouds just dumped more than seven feet of snow on Buffalo, New York, stranding residents at home and trapping drivers on the highway. The storm’s devastation has been wide-ranging; at least 13 are dead, some crushed by collapsing roofs, others frozen in their cars.

The storm was so bad that Buffalo’s Mayor Byron Brown restricted driving in hard-hit South Buffalo to essential emergency personnel. And Buffalo’s troubles might be just beginning. When the temperatures rise, and all that snow starts to melt, the city of 259,000 could experience severe flooding.

Across New York State, it’s a serious wake-up call: winter is coming and it can be dangerous.

Tips For Driving Safely On Ice & Snow

It’s only a matter of time before the streets of New York City are covered in snow themselves. Luckily, the sheer amount of vehicle travel in urban areas is enough to reduce most snow cover to slush near the sidewalk. But the asphalt will be slippery, and accidents are sure to occur. Here are our tips for avoiding injury this winter in New York City.

Before You Turn The Key…

Many accidents can be avoided before you even hit the road. A little preemptive action can go a long way.

1. Don’t Drive If You Don’t Have To

You’ll hear this from everyone, because it’s true. Snow and ice make driving inherently more dangerous, so it’s always best to avoid winter streets when you can. But sometimes obligations beckon, and the call can’t be ignored.

2. Don’t Warm Up Your Vehicle In The Garage

If you live in the city, it’s unlikely that you have to worry about this step. Go ahead and warm up your car if it’s parked on the street; just remember to lock the doors before going inside. If you’re lucky enough to have a garage, never leave your car running in a confined space. Carbon dioxide can build up quickly, and reach lethal levels, when trapped in a small area.

3. Keep Your Tank Full To Prevent The Gas Line Freezing

If water gets trapped in your gas line, it can freeze and your car won’t be able to start. Gasoline has a much lower freeze point, so a full tank should prevent this from happening. If you can, use gasolines with at least 10% ethanol, which gives the gas an even lower freeze point. Still worried? Try adding some gas-line antifreeze, like Heet, directly to your tank after filling up.

Driving In Snow…

4. Go Slowly

Snow and ice make it harder for your tires to adequately grip the road, which means that every decision you make will take longer to play out. Speeding up, slowing down, turning at intersections – everything will take longer in the sludge. Driving slowly simply gives you more time to react to changing conditions.

5. Accelerate & Decelerate Gradually

You won’t be able to stop on a dime when the roads are slick. In fact, slamming on the brakes, and abruptly stopping your wheels, only increases the likelihood that you’ll enter a skid. Slow down gradually to maintain traction, and allow ample distance for stopping at red lights and stop signs.

The same rule holds for speeding up. Slam on the gas, and your wheels aren’t given enough distance to regain traction after being stopped. You’ll either spin in place or skid forward.

6. Increase Your Following Distance

On dry roads, the accepted following distance is around three to four seconds. When it’s wet, increase this to six to ten seconds to avoid rear-ending other vehicles.

When You Skid…

Skidding, or hydroplaning, is especially scary because it’s essentially a loss of control. In this situation, less is more. Don’t panic. Instead, understand that because your tires have lost traction, most normal driving rules no longer apply. Steering and braking won’t have the same affect anymore. Here’s how to handle it:

Gradually take your foot off the gas and allow the car to slow. Don’t hit the brakes, just let inertia do it’s job. Move the wheel as little as possible, while steering in the direction you want the car to go. When you can feel the car regaining control, apply the brakes very slowly, until you come out of the skid.