Upstate New York is blanketed in snow this Christmas season. So beautiful — and so dangerous for motorists. Snow is especially plentiful in the Oswego, Syracuse and Buffalo areas (the “snow belt”). Buffalo, Oswego and Syracuse motor vehicle accident lawyers have already begun fielding telephone calls from distraught family members of victims of snow or ice-related car accidents.
Here’s a tragic example of the havoc ice and snow can reap on motorists: This week a Newfane high school teacher, Christina Portale, of Lewiston, was killed in the Wrights Corners area, Niagara County. She was eastbound on Ridge Road, between Johnson and Purdy roads, when she lost control due to slippery road conditions. Her vehicle entered the westbound lane, where it was struck by a tractor-trailer. Firefighters extracted her using the “jaws of life”, and then had Mercy Flight fly her to Erie County Medical Center, but she died in the emergency room. Portale was only 29 years old and left behind two small children.
A motorist is required to maintain control of her vehicle. Most drivers don’t do everything they can to avoid slipping and sliding on icy or snowy road conditions. There are different kinds of icing conditions, but the most deadly is “black ice”, which is nearly invisible, and even more so at night. Motorists in upstate New York must learn to anticipate black ice, which is usually formed when the roads are wet and temperatures drop sharply. The first black ice usually forms on bridges and overpasses, in shaded areas, in low-lying areas, and on hilltops exposed to wind.
How do you protect yourself and your family from deadly icy conditions on roadways? The first and best defense is, just don’t drive. Stay home if the temperatures appear to be dropping below freezing where there is moisture on the roads. If you must go out, follow these tips:
• Go very slowly, especially around curves and down hills or grades.
• Avoid aggressive braking or steering. All your driving actions must be slow, deliberate, and in anticipation of sliding.
• stop and get out of your car from time to time to check the road surface for ice.
• Listen for that “swishing” sound of the water beneath your tires — if you stop hearing it, get out and check the surface of the road!
• Double your following distance.
• Practice defensive driving in every respect- you may be able to avoid slipping and sliding, but the other guy might not!
• Remember that ice forms more quickly on asphalt or concrete than on a gravel road.
• If you start to slide, ease your foot off the accelerator. With non-ABS brakes, tap lightly on the brakes to gradually slow down. With ABS brakes, apply steady and continuous pressure.
Be safe this winter — avoid icy or snowy driving conditions, but if you must drive in such conditions, follow the safety tips above. Avoid being the victim of an ice-related motor vehicle crash.