AAA urges driver caution as major storm barrels toward East Coast

As a major winter storm approaches the East Coast this weekend, AAA urges motorists to be prepared and to remain cautious if driving. That’s because dangerous winter storms and bad weather are factors in nearly half a million crashes and more 2,000 road deaths every winter, according to the latest research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

According to a new AAA Foundation research report entitled Motor Vehicle Crashes, Injuries and Deaths in Relation to Weather Conditions, about 46% of crashes involving bad weather take place in the winter, making this the worst time of year for driving in treacherous conditions.

And the highest proportion of crashes involving bad weather happen overnight from 6 p.m. to 5:59 a.m., when visibility is limited and roads are most likely to freeze. Previous research also has found that the rates of fatal crashes are higher during the first snowfall of the year than on subsequent days with snow.

“This weekend’s winter storm has great potential to create havoc on major roads used by millions of drivers every day,” said Fran Mayko, AAA Northeast’s spokeswoman in Connecticut. “If you do venture out, drivers braving the bad weather should remain cautious and slow down to keep from being in a crash.”

The study by the AAA Foundation, the research arm of AAA, analyzed bad weather and crashes throughout the year. The study found rain, snow, sleet and fog are factors in more than 1.1 million police-reported crashes, 425,000 injuries and 5,100 traffic deaths per year. The study did learn however that crashes in bad weather are generally less severe than crashes during clear weather.

AAA recommends the following tips to remain safe while driving in snowy and icy conditions:

  • Stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Even if you can drive well in the snow, not everyone else can.
  • Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. Give yourself time to maneuver by driving slowly.
  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Apply the gas slowly to regain traction and avoid skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry; take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
  • Increase your following distance to 8 to 10 seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
  • Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
  • Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.
  • Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed downhill slowly.
  • Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.

AAA handles an average of 600,000 emergency roadside assistance calls  nationally per week in the winter with the most common problems being dead batteries, extractions, towing and flat tires. AAA recommends keeping the following items in your “emergency kit” for winter driving:

  • Bag of abrasive materials such as sand, salt or cat litter
  • Snow shovel
  • Flashlight
  • Gloves or mittens
  • Ice scraper and snow brush
  • Jumper cables
  • Blanket
  • Warning flare or triangles
  • Cellular phone and emergency charger
  • Food and water
  • First aid kit

AAA Northeast is a not-for-profit auto club with 61 offices in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York providing more than 5.2 million local AAA members with travel, insurance, finance, and auto-related services.

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