After a snowstorm, many New Jersey residents shovel a path to their cars and clear the way so they are able to pull out of their driveway or parking spot. Those people then proceed to wipe off their windshield, windows, and door handles of their vehicle but may be forgetting something very important that could get them into trouble down the road *pun intended*.
The State of New Jersey has imposed an affirmative duty on anyone operating a motor vehicle on a street or highway to make “all reasonable efforts” to remove accumulated ice or snow from the vehicle prior to operation. NJ Rev Stat § 39:4-77.1 (2013). The reasoning behind this law is obvious… the snow and ice could easily become a dangerous projectile and has the potential to harm other drivers on the road. The snow and ice becoming dislodged is not, however, a prerequisite to a ticket for this offense. You can be ticketed between $25 and $75 even if the snow and ice did not actually dislodge from your vehicle. This means you could be driving through a neighborhood at 15 mph and get a ticket for having snow on your roof. If there is any damage or injury caused by snow or ice on your vehicle, the fines range from $200 to $1000, not to mention potential liability for injuries caused and damages incurred.
Below are a few useful winter driving tips to remember during this inclement weather. Please follow these tips to keep yourself and other safe.
Winter Driving Tips
- Drive slowly (at or below the posted speed limit) and adjust your speed for the changing road conditions.
- Turn on your headlights, using low beams when traveling in snow.
- Increase your following distance. In winter weather, travel at least eight to 10 seconds behind the car in front of you.
- Give snowplows plenty of room to work. Don’t tailgate and try not to pass. If you must pass, take extreme caution in doing so. Remember, a snowplow operator’s field of vision is restricted. You may see him, but they don’t always see you.
- If you skid, don’t brake or accelerate. Remove your foot from the gas, and gently steer your car in the direction of the skid (the direction the rear of your vehicle is sliding.) When your car starts heading in the desired direction, carefully straighten the wheel.
- Slow down before exiting the highway. Exit ramps often have icy patches, sharp curves and stalled or stopped vehicles.
- Have a personal safety kit easily accessible in your vehicle that includes: an ice scraper/brush; shovel; jumper cables or battery starter; blanket; sand, salt or kitty litter for traction; lock de-icer; flashlight and new batteries; extra windshield wiper fluid; safety flares/warning device; cell phone with spare battery; water and non-perishable food (i.e., granola or protein bars); and paper towels or a cloth.
- If your vehicle does become disabled, pull off the road as far as possible and turn on your emergency flashers. Remain with your vehicle until help arrives. If you can’t get your vehicle off the road and are uncertain about your safety, do not stay in your vehicle or stand behind it. Proceed carefully to a safe location away from traffic.