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Tips for navigating your car through a snowstorm

Winter has hit the New York area again. Many of us were blindsided by the sudden shift during the onset of the recent storm. Thousands found themselves stranded at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, and more still found themselves stranded in their own vehicles in gridlocked traffic.

As was reported by ABC7, citizens and official alike were outraged at the city’s lack of a response to the storm. Downed trees, roads being closed for snowplows and, most importantly, auto accidents choked the city streets for hours. While officials declared that they would improve future responses, it is important to remember that this is the first storm of many to come this season.

Riding the storm out

Hopefully municipal efforts to keep traffic flowing will be more effective in the future. While they review their response to snow, individual drivers need to remember how they should respond to driving in a snowstorm, as well.

Even if you have grown up in a snowy climate, it is never a bad idea to review the basics. It has been the better part of a year since most of us have had to contend with the diminished traction, poor visibility and overall atmosphere of falling snow. Expect the first few drives through heavy snow to take some getting used to.

If you must drive during a snowstorm, some of the best steps you can take for your safety and the safety of those around you include:

  • Slow down – Decelerating means more reaction time if something goes wrong, something vital when visibility is poor and roads are slippery.
  • Give drivers space – It will take longer for cars to decelerate, turn and virtually everything else; give everyone a little extra space.
  • Use turn signals – Something every driver should be doing already; communicating with other drivers during a storm is especially important – use your blinkers.
  • Brake gradually – Hitting your brakes as usual will almost certainly send your car sliding and even spinning. Apply your brakes early and gently so that you gradually come to a stop.
  • Accelerate gradually – Hitting the gas as usual will almost certainly leave your tires spinning. Speed up over the course of several seconds to allow your tires time to keep traction.
  • Never use cruise control – You will most likely need to make minor adjustments to your speed while driving, cruise control takes this away and is downright dangerous.
  • Don’t panic – It may be difficult, but keeping a cool head is vital to driving in a storm. Try to intuit what other drivers will do and how your car will react to upcoming turns or stops.

These are basic steps anyone and everyone should take when driving in a snowstorm. They may seem simple, but if every driver used them there would be significantly fewer accidents every winter.

Stay out of the cold

The best way to avoid an accident during a winter storm is to not invite the possibility to begin with. If you have the option, don't get in your car at all. As Mayor Bill de Blasio told ABC7, "Stay off the roads, don't go to work, don't use your cars, leave room for the plows."

Safety is paramount when it comes to driving. Do not be afraid to cancel plans, keep your children home from school and possibly stay home yourself if necessary. Better to be safe now and make up what you missed later.

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