Driving a car on a snowy day

Thanksgiving is this later month, but the Holiday Season is already underway for many. This time of year, it is also a good idea to remember to be extra careful when driving in the snow. Prepare yourself for colder weather, in general.

Thanksgiving Day Safety Tips

Thanksgiving marks the official beginning of holiday traffic. An extra 100,000 vehicles (approximately) begin entering New York City on a daily basis.

  • Be patient, courteous, and considerate of all motorists to reduce the chances of being a victim of road rage.
  • Remember that the person driving next to you may park their vehicle in a garage and is become a potential passenger.
  • Tourists boost the city’s economy, so show them how much we appreciate them by presenting a helpful and positive image.
  • Have your holiday dinner after your work shift. Eating a large dinner may make you drowsy. Driving while drowsy can be as dangerous as Driving While Intoxicated (DWI).
  • Remember that New York City Traffic Department Agents can issue summons for “Blocking the Box.”
  • The Holiday Season generally brings an increase in drunk drivers. Be prepared to use your defensive driving skills.

Holiday Parties

Holiday Parties result in an increase in drunk drivers, so use extra caution for the next couple months.

  • Many people who have been drinking at holiday parties will be wisely take a taxi or black car, as suggested by public service announcements. Be more patient than usual with intoxicated passengers, remembering that they are doing the responsible thing by hiring your vehicle.
  • Passengers are sometimes depressed during the holidays for personal reasons. Spreading joy to such passengers will make you feel good and help them immensely.

Winter Driving Tips

Thousands of motorists are stranded on our nation’s streets and highways during the winter months. Some die, many others suffer injuries and frostbite. Still others endure delays waiting until someone up ahead is towed or pushed out of trouble. These situations can be avoided by following these suggestions:

Stay off the road when traveler’s warnings are issued. When police and weather officials issue winter storm alerts, they mean business, and they’re talking to you. Many motorists wind up stranded on highways because they leave home or work after being warned roads are impassible.

If you’re away from home and conditions suddenly become impassible, stay where you are. As much as you might want to get home, you definitely don’t want to get stuck in a snowdrift halfway there. Don’t bet your life (or anyone else’s) on a four-wheel drive vehicle. In a full-scale blizzard, you’re not much better off than someone in a conventional car.

“Winterize” your vehicle before snow starts flying. Many motorists find themselves stuck or stranded each winter due to car trouble that could have been avoided by simple preventive maintenance. The following items should be checked before the first snow hits and service stations are jammed:

  • Battery charge and condition
  • Radiator coolant, hoses, thermostat, defroster/heater, wiper blades, washer fluid
  • Spark plugs, engine timing
  • Tire tread (consider snow tires)
  • Headlights, taillights, turn signals
  • Brake condition and adjustment
  • Also: Switch to winter grade oil

Driving During & After a Snowstorm

As winter weather sets in, you should expect and prepare for delays. Some trips may take twice as long as normal.

  • Plan your route to avoid steep grades and lightly-traveled roads.
  • Slow down. Snow and ice can reduce tire traction and cause loss of control. Under these conditions, posted speed limits are a no longer safe.
  • Increase following distances. It can take from 3 to 10 times longer to stop on winter-slick street. The “two second rule” for a safe following distance must be increased accordingly to avoid “rear-ender” accidents.
  • Do not rush to pick up a prearranged passenger. Give ETAs that you can realistically keep.
  • Remember, your safety and the safety of your passengers are of utmost importance.
  • In the days after a snowstorm use caution when you are outside your vehicle and assisting passengers. Slippery sidewalks can cause serious injuries. Also: Be on the alert for ice melting and falling from high-rise buildings.
  • Kids often throw snowballs at taxis and FHVs as a prank. Do not stop and respond or the situation could escalate into violence, and it could be a trap.

Winter Emergency Kit

Keep an emergency survival kit in your vehicle. The following items should be stored in your vehicle before winter weather sets in.

  • Several warm blankets, small shovel, sand and/or kitty litter, safety flares, flashlight (w/extra batteries), jumper cables, a red flag or cloth
  • Warm socks, extra gloves/mittens, warm hat/cap, extra sweaters or shirts
  • Spare ice scraper
  • Extra cell phone battery or portable charger (make sure it’s charged)
  • Several chocolate or high-energy food bars
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Article by Bertram Merling

Bertram Merling is the Loss Control Coordinator for the Hereford Insurance Company.

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