Winter Driving in Snow

Winter is here.  Like it or not, the next several months require driving in snow if we want to drive anywhere.  Whether this is your first winter driving in snow, or you are an old hat at winter driving, it doesn’t hurt to brush up on a few winter driving tips.

Tips for Driving in Snow

The American Automobile Association (AAA) recommends the following:

  • When approaching a hill, get some forward movement going. While on the hill, do not stop if at all avoidable. 
  • Do not apply extra gas on a hill. Slow and steady will get you to the top.
  • Once at the top of a hill, reduce your speed.
  • Drive down hills as slowly as possible.
  • Understand the challenge of starting a vehicle from a full stop, rather than accelerating a car that is still moving. Don’t stop if you can avoid it safely.
  • Stop your vehicle by keeping the heel of your foot on the floor. Use the ball of your foot to brake.  Apply steady, firm pressure on the brake pedal.
  • Put eight to ten seconds between yourself and the car in front of you. This will provide you a longer distance for stopping.
  • Remember, nothing happens as quickly on snow covered roads. Plan on needing more time to stop, accelerate, and turn your car in snow.
  • Applying the gas slowly is best for avoiding skidding out.
  • Use your headlights to make your vehicle more visible.
  • Consider staying home. If you don’t need to go out, stay put.  Just because you are familiar with driving in snow doesn’t mean your fellow travelers are similarly skilled.

Areas of Additional Concern

There are certain portions of the roadways that may be more dangerous than others.  Be advised, for example, that bridge decks freeze first.  Even if the snow is melting elsewhere on the roadway, bridge decks should be approached with caution.  They may be icy.

Exit ramps and entrance ramps may be more icy than the main roadway.  Be aware of this when entering and exiting the freeways.

There is also vehicle specific information you should be aware of.  Sports Utility Vehicles, 4 x 4 vehicles, and trucks weigh more than other passenger vehicles.  This means they need more time and space to stop.  If you are driving one of these vehicles, give yourself more time.  If you are passing one of these vehicles, give them wide berth.  Avoid cutting in front of larger vehicles.

Plows require special attention.  Give them plenty of room.  Do not pass plows on the right.  Stay at least 200 feet behind plows.

Let someone know where you are going.  Provide them with your expected route.  Also, get the Buffalo, New York traffic and road conditions.

Stay Safe this Winter

As the winter season progresses, we at The O’Brien Firm wish you safe travels.  If you or a loved one does get hurt in a car crash, we are happy to come to you to discuss the facts in your case.  You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.  At The O’Brien Firm, we have over 35 years of experience representing clients in car crash cases.  There is no cost to you unless we win your case.  Contact us at (716) 907-7777.

Winter Is Coming: How Drivers Can Prepare

The National Safety Council encourages drivers to plan ahead! Winter is coming whether we like it or not. Winter driving is different. In Buffalo in the winter time, blizzards can come out of nowhere. Icy conditions happen as often as not. While newer model cars have more and more safety features, there are still steps all drivers should take to minimize danger and maximize safety.

Create a Winter Safety Kit
Don’t wait for the first snow fall to create a winter safety kit for your car. As a starting point, make it a goal to always have a full or almost full tank of gas. Never let the gas tank get below half full in the winter time. Also, make sure your car has fresh antifreeze and plenty of wind shield fluid. Finally, take a moment to ensure your spare tire is properly inflated, you have a wheel wrench, and a working tripod jack.
Your emergency safety kit within your car should also include the following items:
• A shovel for digging out of snow;
• Jumper cables;
• A tow line;
• Bag of salt to melt snow;
•Kitty litter for increased tire traction;
• Blankets;
• Mittens;
• Hats;
• Warm socks;
• Boots, if the driver doesn’t wear boots in the car as a matter of course;
• Tool kit;
• Nonperishable foods like nuts, dried fruits, and granola bars;
• Flashlight, along with fresh batteries;
• Scissors and twine;
• Reflective triangles;
• Wood matches in a waterproof container;
• Flares;
• Ice scraper;
• First aid kit;
• Portable phone charger (make sure it is fully charged!);
• Snow brush; and
• Compass.

Give Your Car a Winter Weather Check
It is a good idea to have a qualified mechanic review your vehicle systems before winter arrives. They should check the ignition, brakes, spark plugs, hoses, and fan belts. They should also check wiring, the battery, the distributor, air filters, fuel filters, and emission filters. Finally, they should check the PCV valve, the battery, air pressure in the tires, tire wear patterns, and the antifreeze level. A few dollars of preventative maintenance can go a long way this winter when the temperature drops.

Before You Leave. . .
Any time the weather gets really cold, it’s natural to want to warm up the car before taking a trip. While warming up a car ahead of time is fine, never warm up the car in an enclosed area. Even if the garage door is open, it is not safe to leave a car running in an attached garage. Rather, let the car warm up out in the open, in the drive way or in front of the house.
When the weather appears dangerous or unpredictable, consider waiting out the storm. If that is not possible, make sure you inform a family member or friend of your planned route. Call them when you arrive safely. In the unlikely event your car goes off the road or is involved in a crash, knowing your route can shave valuable minutes off rescue efforts.
If you find yourself stranded in an unfamiliar area, the National Safety Council recommends you don’t leave your car. Instead, remove the flares from your winter tool kit and light them. Place the flares in front of and behind your car. Take a moment to make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t blocked by snow, garbage, mud, or other objects.

If You Get Hurt in a Crash
In winter driving, crashes are inevitable. While we hope you never need us, The O’Brien Firm is here for you if you do. If you have been hurt in a crash, we will come to you to meet with you and discuss your case. You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.

Big Trucks and Blind Spots

Understanding the “No Zone”

The United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) identifies large blind spots as one of several operating limitations of large trucks and buses, along with long stopping distances and making wide turns.  Big truck blind spots include 20 feet in front of the truck, 30 feet behind the truck, as well as blind spots to the right and the left of the vehicle.  As a simple rule of thumb, passing vehicles should presume they are in a truck driver’s blind spot unless they can see the truck driver’s face in the truck’s side mirror.

Safety Tips in Blind Spots

The FMCSA offers several suggestions for driving safely around large trucks and buses.

Be Aware of Your Position

Because truck driver blind spots are large, drivers are encouraged to stay out of “no zones” whenever possible.  Obviously, this isn’t always possible.  Drivers should bear blind spots in mind when passing a big truck, or merging next to a big truck.  Drivers should also watch for trucks turning, backing up, or changing lanes.

Passing Safely

When you pass a big truck, recall first the blind spot up to 30 feet behind the truck.  Make sure you are out of this blind zone.  Signal your turn before moving into the left lane.  Accelerate to pass the truck quickly and safely.  Do not linger in the blind spot on the side of the truck.  Make sure you can see the truck in your rearview mirror before you return to your own lane in front of the truck.

When a truck is passing your car, stay in the right lane and slow down slightly.  This gives the truck driver room to pass safely.  It also allows the driver to pass more quickly, getting you out of the blind spot faster.

Watch for Signals

Buses and trucks need more turning room.  Consequently, they may initiate turns from the middle lane, rather than the far right.  If a truck driver is signaling a turn, believe them, even if they don’t appear to you to be in a turning lane.  Never try to speed by a truck on the right when they are signaling a right – hand turn.  Recall, you are driving directly in a “no zone,” and the truck driver may not see you.  Similarly, when a truck comes onto the highway, merging from the right, bear in mind the driver’s extended blind spot.  If you can slow down, or change lanes further to the left, do so.

Big Truck Statistics

FMCSA offers some sobering facts about accidents with large trucks and buses.

  • 7 out of every 10 people killed in crashes with large trucks are occupants of other vehicles.
  • 30 % of all fatal crashes that occur in work zones involve one or more large trucks.
  • 61 % of all fatal crashes involving large trucks happen on rural roads.

If You Have Been Injured by a Big Truck or Tractor Trailer

If you are injured by a big truck, or if you have lost a loved one in a crash with a big truck, you may be entitled to compensation.  At The O’Brien Firm, we will come to you to discuss your case at no cost to you.  We only charge a fee if we recover for you.  Give us a call at 716-907-7777 today.

 

 

More Driving Accidents Happen In The Summer Months

Summer is here and along with the beautiful weather and sunny skies, there is also a greater risk of being in an automobile accident for drivers and their passengers on the road.

Many drivers think that they’re more likely to be in a driving accident during the winter months when it’s darker outside for more of the day, and when there’s bad weather conditions like snow and ice on the road.

Peak Months for Car Accidents

But according to data from car insurance companies as well as NHTSA (the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), the peak months for car accidents from year to year are typically July, August, and September.

While drivers tend to be more alert when it’s darker outside or when there are inclement weather conditions, clear skies on a bright summer day can lull some drivers into a sense of safety and complacency that leads to distracted driving.

NHTSA also points to the higher number of holiday travelers in the summer months, and the markedly higher number of drivers impaired by alcohol, causing almost twice the number of traffic fatalities in the summer months than during the rest of the year combined.

Teen Drivers and Distracted Driving

Traffic researchers have also found that teen drivers spend 44 percent more time on the road during the week in the summer months than they do during the school year, so the most inexperienced drivers, who are the most prone to distracted driving accidents, will be out in greater numbers for longer periods of time over the next few weeks.

In fact, the stretch of calendar from Memorial Day to Labor Day, which is summer vacation for most students, is called “The 100 Deadliest Days” for teen drivers, and nine out of the ten deadliest days in the year for young drivers on U.S. highways are between May and August.

The Deadliest Day of the Year for Car Accidents

The #1 deadliest day of the year for automobile accidents on America’s roads is right in the middle of “The 100 Deadliest Days.” A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that the Fourth of July holiday is the most dangerous time to drive all year, with more car accidents than New Year’s Eve, Saint Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, or Super Bowl Sunday.

Summer Roadway Hazards

Another reason for the increase in driving accidents during the summer months is the increase in equipment failure caused by the summer heat. Engines in older cars are more likely to overheat and worn tires are more likely to blowout, creating road hazards and increasing the chances of a car accident.

There are also more complicated and hazardous road conditions during the summer months, especially as roadway construction crews are at the peak of their activity all year, shutting down traffic lanes, increasing congestion, creating detours, and creating more chances for distracted driving to cause an accident.

Avoiding Automobile Accidents in The Summer Months

Rather than allowing the clear, sunny weather and the excitement of summer time lull you into a state of complacency and distraction, know that responsible, alert, defensive driving is more important now than at any time all year, and could save you from a damaged vehicle, a personal injury, even death in an automobile accident.

(Though you should make sure you are alert and drive responsibly every time you get behind the wheel, and know how to engage in the best driving practices referred to as “defensive driving” year-round.)

Best Practices While Driving

Never drive while impaired by alcohol, drugs, or medication, or if you are sleep deprived or in a state of extreme emotional distress. Leave your phone in your purse or pocket and keep your eyes on the road as you drive and each hand at the “ten” and “two” o’clock positions on the steering wheel.

Have a good awareness of the road around you, looking ahead to see what’s down the road, keeping your eye on what other drivers are doing in front of you, and to the left and right, and glancing occasionally at your rearview mirror to know what’s going on behind you.

What To Do If You Are in An Automobile Accident

Stay calm and remember safety first. Making sure you and everyone else is safe and unharmed, and calling 911 if anyone is injured should be your first priority.

Don’t take responsibility for the accident and don’t assign blame to the other driver either. Get their contact, vehicle, and insurance information, and take pictures of the accident. Document everything you can and look for any witnesses that might have seen what happened.

We highly recommend that before you make a statement to an insurance company, you call an experienced vehicle accident attorney to make sure your best interests are protected.

If you or a loved one has been in an automobile accident, contact The O’Brien Firm at (716)- 907-7777 if you have any questions about your rights.

The Effects of Distracted Driving Accidents

The task of driving is a privilege, not a right. When you get behind the wheel of a vehicle, you are controlling, potentially, a deadly weapon. Sadly, many drivers do not take this responsibility seriously. They use driving time to multitask, engaging in dangerous habits such as texting, talking on the phone, eating and drinking, personal grooming, and chatting with passengers. In 2014, 3,179 people died in distracted driving crashes around the United States. Learn how distraction kills to better understand how to prevent these accidents.

 

Visual and Manual Distractions

 

Distracted driving is any activity that takes a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. For example, reading or typing a text message distracts for an average of five seconds. Five seconds may not seem like a lot of time to take your eyes off the road, but it’s the same amount of time it takes a vehicle traveling 55 miles per hour to cross an entire football field. Reading a text is the equivalent of traversing a football field blindfolded. Cell phone use is often a double whammy – a visual and manual distraction. Teens and young adults are the most likely to be distracted, due to higher rates of cell phone use.

 

On the road, distraction vastly increases the chance of injury or death. Around 8 people are killed and over 1100 are injured in crashes from distracted driving everyday within the United States. Young people are four times more likely to be involved in these accidents – five times more likely if there are two or more passengers along for the ride.

 

How to Prevent Distracted Driving

 

The easiest way to prevent distracted driving accidents is to not participate in distracted behaviors. Put your phone away and on silent before you begin to drive, and don’t read or send text messages, even when stopped at a red light. Avoid other manual distractions, such as eating or applying makeup while operating your vehicle. Don’t fiddle with buttons on the car’s radio or GPS, and avoid participating in emotional discussions with passengers. Whenever you’re riding passenger, be aware of the driver’s actions and do your best to prevent them from driving while distracted. Educating friends and families on the dangers of distraction while on the road can help save your life as well as the lives of other drivers.

 

A distracted mind cannot safely operate a motor vehicle. If you or a loved one have been involved in a distraction-related car accident in New York, contact The O’Brien Firm at (716)- 907- 7777. Our staff will thoroughly investigate the details of the accident to determine if distracted driving was a factor, so you can be best represented.

The Dangers of Road Debris

Everyone knows that sick feeling of running over something in the road and hoping it didn’t damage the vehicle. A quick reaction may avert the danger without serious consequence, but that’s not always what happens. Road debris can often lead to serious car accidents, as was the case for a New York man killed when he went off the road trying to avoid tractor trailer tire debris.

It isn’t just tire debris that causes accidents, however. Improperly secured cargo, litter, and storm driven debris, such as tree branches, can also result in an accident. In many cases, there is a liable party – but that’s not always the case.

Keeping Debris Off the Road

Everyone has a responsibility to keep debris off our highways. Even a plastic grocery bag floating in the wind can cause an accident under the right circumstances. You may never know that you were responsible, but if you take steps to properly secure and cover loads and do not litter, you’ll know for certain that you didn’t injure someone inadvertently. Penalties running from fines to jail time exist for having items fall from your vehicle, even if they don’t cause an accident.

What Drivers Can Do

There’s no way to completely eliminate the dangers of road debris, and seeking restitution from a negligent party can be challenging. For one thing, it’s nearly impossible to prove where the debris came from. The best thing to do is adopt defensive driving skills. Slow down and don’t tailgate to allow more response time. Use extra caution in inclement weather. Keep focused on the road, avoiding distractions as much as possible.

If you’ve suffered because road debris has resulted in an accident and you want legal advice, contact The O’Brien Firm, PC. With over 25 years of experience, we know how to get results and can tell you the potential for your claim. You only pay if we win your case.

The O’Brien Firm 716-907-7777

 

How Stress and Emotional Driving Can Result in an Accident

A distracted driver behind the wheel has a higher risk of being involved in an accident. Even taking your eyes off the wheel for a moment can have serious consequences. For example, answering a text takes less than five seconds, but at 55 miles per hour, that’s long enough to travel over 400 feet. A great deal can happen in that time.

It doesn’t have to be texting or some other activity to put drivers in danger, however. A wandering mind is equally as dangerous. Thinking about an argument you just had or feeling stressed about something will severely diminish defensive driving skills. You may cause an accident or be less able to avoid one.

Recognizing and Dealing With Stress

Stress cannot be shut off easily. You need to recognize when emotions are running too high to be behind the wheel. Take a walk to clear your mind or sit in your car with your favorite songs playing until you are calmer. It is better to be late to where you are going than to not make it at all.

Avoid Stressful Situations When Driving

Stressful situations can also come up during the drive, but many of these can be avoided. For example, never have an argument on the phone while you’re driving. Traffic can be another irritant, but if you allow extra time for the trip, you’ll be less likely to get upset over heavy traffic.

If an erratic driver is upsetting you, try to change your mind set by imagining why he or she might be driving that way. For instance, someone trying to push you down the road may be trying to get to the hospital in a hurry. It doesn’t hurt to give him or her the benefit of the doubt. Switching your brain from upset to sympathetic will do wonders for reducing stress.

If you do find yourself in an accident, don’t let the stress of the situation cause you to make mistakes. The steps you take right after the accident will make a difference. After getting medical attention and contacting the police, your next call should be to an attorney. The O’Brien Firm, PC has been assisting accident victims in Buffalo for more than 25 years. We recommend that you consult us before you provide a statement to your insurance company.

 

The O’Brien Firm 716-907-7777