Sparkling celebration fireworksNew York City Manhattan skyline with skyscrapers over Hudson River illuminated with lights at dusk after sunset.

Winter weather has arrived, the holiday season is well under way, and New Year’s Eve is rapidly approaching. All of these things complicate life for people who drive in the city. It’s also important to take snowstorms seriously, for your safety and for the safety of your passengers.

New Year’s Eve

  • Street closings and detours around New Year’s Eve events make navigating the city more difficult. Do your homework ahead of time and learn where they are, so you can avoid them.
  • Be patient with intoxicated passengers. It’s better that they hired your vehicle, rather than driving while intoxicated.
  • Familiarize yourself with area police precincts. Do not take the law into your own hands if you are being abused or threatened by an intoxicated passenger.
  • Wear your seatbelt and encourage your passengers to do the same. Large crowds tend to jaywalk on New Year’s Eve, causing sudden stops.
  • Try to use local streets. It is easier to drive defensively on a street than a highway, where drunk drivers may be speeding and behaving recklessly.
  • Be pleasant to your passengers on NYE, you may be pleasantly surprised by the generous gratuities. Many passengers understand and appreciate the fact you’re working on a notoriously difficult and dangerous evening.

Driving During and After a Snowstorm

Remember: Your safety and the safety of your passengers are your top priority, particularly when winter weather makes driving more hazardous.

  • When it’s snowing, it’s sensible to leave early and expect trips to take twice as long as normal.
  • Plan your route ahead of time to avoid steep grades and lightly-traveled roads.
  • Slow down. Slick pavement means reduced traction. Under icy or snowy conditions, the posted speed limit is not safe.
  • Increase following distance. It can take three to ten times longer to stop on a winter-slick pavement than a dry road. The two-second rule as a safe following distance must be increased to avoid “rear-ender” accidents.
  • Do not rush to pick up passengers. Give realistic ETAs.
  • In the days after a snowstorm use caution outside your vehicle, too. Slippery sidewalks can be dangerous and large chunks of melting ice can fall from high rise buildings.
  • Children and teenagers often throw snowballs at taxis and vehicles for hire as a prank. Do not stop and escalate the situation. It could turn into something much more serious and dangerous.
  • When there is a winter weather warning, it’s often best to stay home or remain where you are until plows and sanding crews have done their work.
  • Get a grip. High performance summer tires have little or no grip in snow. Even “all-season” tires don’t necessarily have sufficient traction. If possible, use snow tires, which feature a “snowflake on the mountain” symbol.
  • Replace windshield wiper blades and clean the inside of your windows thoroughly. Apply a water-shedding fluid (like Rain-X) to the outside of all windows and mirrors. Make sure your windshield washer system works and is full of an anti-icing fluid. Drain older fluid by running the washers until new fluid appears. Switching colors makes this easy.
  • Run the air-conditioner to remove condensation and frost from windows. Select the fresh air option and set the temperature to “hot.” Many cars automatically do this when you choose the defrost setting.
  • Your headlights help you see and be seen. Make sure your headlights and taillights are clear of snow. If you have an older car with sand-pitted headlights, get a new set of lenses. To prevent future pitting, cover the new lens a clear tape, which is available from auto-racing supply websites.
  • Beware of “black ice,” which is nearly transparent and often looks like a harmless puddle. If the road looks slick, it probably is. Test the traction with a smooth brake application or slight turn of the wheel.
  • Make note and avoid dangerous areas, where icy roads tend to occur, like bridges and intersections. Also: wherever water runs across the road.

Technology offers no miracles. All-wheel drive (AWD) and electronic stability control (ESC) can be helpful but they can also offer a false sense of security. AWD can help a vehicle accelerate or keep moving, but it can’t help you turn safely on a snow-covered road, much less stop at an icy intersection. ESC can prevent a spinout, but it can’t clear ice from roads or give your tires more traction.

Article by Michele Norton
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