Winter driving in New York poses many challenges not seen during the warmer months. Whether you live in the city or Upstate, it is not unusual to encounter frigid conditions, icy roadways, and sudden flurries. Getting anywhere by car can become a harrowing ordeal when the weather doesn’t cooperate.
Plows and road salt can only do so much to keep drivers safe in winter. However, buying the right car, equipping it correctly, and taking other precautions can help you maintain control while driving and avoid a collision. Keep reading to learn more about how you can protect yourself while driving this winter.
How Different Cars Handle Snowy and Icy Roads
Bigger does not necessarily mean better when it comes to driving in snowy or icy conditions. Rather, a car’s drivetrain and suspension tend to significantly impact handling in winter weather. There are three main drivetrain and suspension options when you buy a car:
- Two-wheel drive – In cars with two-wheel drive, the car’s front or rear wheels provide all the torque from the engine. Two-wheel drive is not ideal for winter driving because the concentrated torque can cause a vehicle to slide, particularly if it is rear-wheel drive. If one or both wheels providing torque lose their grip on the road surface, the vehicle may skid and hit another car or a stationary object.
- Four-wheel drive – In cars with four-wheel drive, all four wheels provide torque and traction, and each wheel receives the same amount of power. Four-wheel drive systems provide more traction and control than two-wheel drive systems, but they are not without drawbacks. Turning a car with four-wheel drive can present challenges because even though the wheels move at different speeds during the turn, each wheel receives the same amount of power. This can make the vehicle harder to control, particularly in icy conditions. That said, many four-wheel drive cars come with a two-wheel drive mode for driving in standard road conditions.
- All-wheel drive – All-wheel drive is similar to four-wheel drive, except each wheel can receive a different amount of power from the engine. While older vehicles achieved all-wheel drive through mechanical means, modern cars have software that controls how much power each wheel receives instead of the driver. The nice thing about all-wheel drive cars is that they handle well when turning while still providing increased traction compared to two-wheel drive cars.
So, which system is best for winter driving? The answer is that it depends. Front-wheel drive is usually better than rear-wheel drive, while all-wheel drive provides the best option in most road conditions. Those who often have to drive off-road or on roadways that haven’t been plowed would benefit from four-wheel drive.
Winter Vehicle Safety Checklist
The best thing you can do to prevent winter driving accidents is to make sure your car is in good working order before the snow falls. AAA provides a list of things you should check in your vehicle before winter starts. Some items on the list include:
- The battery and charging system – Cold temperatures can sap a battery’s charge, rendering it unable to start the vehicle. Have a mechanic check your battery’s charge and examine the other electrical system components to ensure your car starts when you need it to.
- Brakes – Properly working brakes are crucial at any time, but they become particularly so in the slick road conditions common in the winter. Have a mechanic check your brakes for any issues and fix any they find.
- Coolant levels – Engine coolant can freeze in frigid conditions, causing significant damage to the engine or other components. If you check your engine coolant level and it seems low, add a 50/50 mixture of coolant and water to keep the engine from freezing.
- Engine hoses – Winter weather can damage engine hoses and impact your driving performance. Take a minute to inspect your cooling system hoses for any cracks, leaks, or loose clamps. Replace any hoses that feel brittle or spongy.
- Lights – Without working lights, you may not be able to see in the dark or when snow falls. Check your headlights (both high beams and low beams), tail lights, turn signals, and emergency flashers to make sure they work correctly. Replace any burned-out bulbs.
- Tires – If possible, install snow tires on all four wheels to give yourself maximum traction in poor weather conditions. If you do not have snow tires or cannot afford them, all-season tires are still effective in light to moderate snow. Regardless of what tires you use, check to see that the tires have enough tread to provide adequate traction. Replace any tires with less than 3/32 inches of tread. Finally, make sure your tires are properly inflated to maximize traction and keep the car balanced as you drive. Generally, something between 30 and 35 psi should be sufficient.
- Wiper blades – Without wiper blades in good condition, snow and other precipitation can smear on your windshield and make it difficult for you to see. Replace old wiper blades with winter wiper blades to protect yourself while driving.
Winter Driving Emergency Kit
No level of preparation and care can completely eliminate the chances of an accident. Having an emergency kit in your car can keep you safe and warm after an accident until help arrives. According to AAA, some of the items to put in your emergency kit include:
- A bag of sand, cat litter, or another abrasive material
- Blankets and warm clothing
- Cellphone charger
- First aid supplies
- Flares, reflectors, or other warning devices
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Ice scraper
- Jumper cables
- Non-perishable food
- Snow shovel
- Winter-formula windshield washer fluid
- Wrench, screwdriver, and other basic tools
Injured in a Winter Car Accident? Contact Finz & Finz, P.C. Now
Bad weather is no excuse for an accident. If another driver hits you this winter, the New York car accident attorneys of Finz & Finz, P.C. can help you demand accountability and compensation. Contact us today to get started with a free consultation.