You can best prepare for New York’s icy streets if you check your car well before the cold weather sets in. A pre-winter car safety check can reduce breakdowns and get you through the inevitable delays and traffic stoppages. Keeping your car well-maintained for all driving conditions will also improve your opportunity to collect damages from other negligent parties when you suffer injuries in a car accident.
The car accident lawyers at New York’s Douglas and London have prepared this overview to help all motorists who travel on icy roads or other inclement weather.
Pre-Winter Check for Your Car’s Safety Features
You can reduce your risks of winter car crashes if you keep your car’s stopping and visibility features in good operating condition. This includes:
- Tires with treads that are deep enough to sustain traction on snow and ice, and that are inflated to their recommended pressure levels;
- Brakes that can slow and stop the car within a reasonable distance;
- Working headlamps that allow the driver to see well in front of the car, and that can alert oncoming drivers to the car;
- Windshield wipers that are not cracked or broken;
- Windshield washer systems, with a full reservoir of fluid.
Pre-Winter Check for Your Car’s Mechanical Systems
Cold weather places a greater strain on the mechanical components that move your car forward. Before any significant temperatures drop, make sure that you maintain all mechanical systems, as follows:
- Change your oil and filter, and consider using a lower-weight oil that maintains its viscosity in very cold temperatures (check your car owner’s manual for recommendations on the type of oil to use);
- Verify that your engine coolant and transmission fluid levels are within range;
- Inspect shock absorbers and replace them if they are old and worn;
- Check electrical system relays and harnesses;
- Replace your battery if it is more than 5 or 6 years old;
- Visually inspect the car’s engine for loose or worn belts and any other anomalies;
- Confirm that your exhaust system has no holes or gaps that could leak exhaust fumes into the passenger compartment of your car.
If you are not comfortable doing your own safety or mechanical system checks, take your car to a dealer or your local mechanic and ask them to perform a complete winter safety analysis of your vehicle. Spending a small amount of money at the beginning of winter can prevent many breakdowns and save you the greater amount of money that you would spend on car repairs.
Pre-Winter Check for Your Car’s Supplies and Services
A few common winter tools and a small emergency kit will also help you to survive winter driving. Make sure your car is equipped with:
- a good window scraper and brush to remove accumulated snow from your car;
- blankets, hats and gloves, and other warm clothing to help you stay comfortable if you get stuck;
- non-perishable foods (e.g., energy bars) and water (keep water in containers that can expand if the temperatures fall below freezing);
- a folding shovel, and kitty litter, sand, or old throw rugs to give added traction;
- first aid supplies;
- flares and brightly colored warning placards.
If you do get stuck in a severe winter storm, be careful about idling your engine. You may be stuck for an extended time and running your engine continuously will deplete your gasoline. In addition, an idling engine might also lead to dangerous buildups of exhaust fumes in your car.
How Regular Maintenance and Safety Checks Can Support a Claim for Damages When You Have a Car Accident
New York and many other states follow comparative negligence rules to allocate liability for losses and injuries in a car accident. Under those rules, an injured person can recover damages even if they were partly to blame for the accident, but the amount of recoverable damages will be reduced in proportion to the claimant’s own negligence. Thus, if an injured party is seeking $100,000 in damages, but he or she is deemed to have been 50% responsible for the accident, the total amount of recoverable damages may be reduced to $50,000.
Car accident defense lawyers might argue that a claimant’s failure to check a car’s safety and mechanical systems was a partial cause of the injuries. Conducting pre-winter safety checks and keeping your car in good operating condition will remove this potential argument, particularly if you are claiming that your accident was caused by a municipality’s failure to de-ice or plow roadways.
Call the Car Accident Lawyers at Douglas and London For More Pre-Winter Car Safety Tips
The NYC Car Accident Attorneys at Douglas and London represent parties who have suffered losses and injuries in car crashes with negligent drivers. We believe that avoiding or reducing the severity of accidents is always a better strategy, and we urge everyone to keep their cars in the best driving condition for any season. If you do suffer injuries in an accident, we will help you recover the largest available damages award that you are entitled to receive.
- www.liveabout.com: Winter Auto Maintenance Checklist. https://www.liveabout.com/winter-auto-maintenance-checklist-281730
- www.nhtsa.gov: Checklist and Tips for Safe Winter Driving. https://www.nhtsa.gov/WinterDrivingTips2012.pdf
- www.nsc.org: Be Prepared for Winter Driving. https://www.nsc.org/home-safety/tools-resources/seasonal-safety/winter/driving