Navigating North Shore roadways can be difficult during the snowy and icy New England winters. From the interstate highways of Routes 93 and 95 to the State maintained roads including Route 1 (the old Newburyport Turnpike) and Routes 114, 129 and 128, difficult driving conditions due to the weather and roadway congestion can result in accidents and injury. The New Year is a good time to refresh our thinking about proper car safety to help minimize risk. According to Mass.gov, “approximately 70% of winter deaths related to snow and ice occur in automobiles”. We have already experienced some winter weather, with a coating of snow and dangerous layer of ice. It will likely get more challenging in the coming months. Preparing your car for winter can really make a difference. Some suggestions: (1) keep your gas tank at least half-full to prevent your fuel line from freezing; (2) install good winter tires with adequate tread and pressure; and (3) check your antifreeze, battery, defroster, windshield wipers, wiper fluid, and other vehicle equipment to make sure they are ready for winter driving. Be prepared, plan ahead and stay safe.
It also is sensible to listen to traffic and weather reports for your departure location and destination. Allow for extra travel time if the road conditions may be slippery or changeable. Being prepared for icy or snowy roadways, check that your defroster is working and that you have a good ice scraper and emergency flares handy. Clear ice and snow from windows, headlights, taillights and the roof and hood of your car before departing. It can be dangerous when snow and ice fly from your car and inadvertently hit another vehicle. Also, know that there is a new law in Massachusetts as of April 7, 2015 whereby all car operators must use headlights whenever windshield wipers are on or if visibility is poor. Further, slow down and use caution on bridges and highway ramps since bridges and overpasses freeze faster than roadways; and always leave extra braking distance between you and the car in front of you, as stopping distances are longer on wet or icy roads.
It is crucial to practice good care safety year round, not just in the winter. According to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles:
When you get into the car and turn it on, before taking the car out of park you should
- Always make sure that the mirrors are adjusted appropriately.
- Fasten your seat belt.
- Be aware of where all the operating controls are (windshield wipers, lights, high beams, etc.).
- Check that your seat is positioned correctly.
Immediately after taking your car out of park, be sure to:
- Use appropriate turn signals.
- Look in both mirrors and over your shoulder before pulling out or backing out.
- Use two hands on opposite sides of the steering wheel for maximum control.
- Be aware of the traffic around you (oncoming and behind).
- Stop behind the crosswalk or limit line.
- Stop the vehicle gently. Start braking well ahead of where you are stopping to avoid unnecessary jarring of the vehicle (and your neck!).
- If your view is obstructed, move forward with caution and always look both ways at an intersection.
- Turns are meant to be taken at low speeds.
- When you start a turn, make sure you are lined up to end the turn in the appropriate lane. Taking wide turns is dangerous.
- Yield to the vehicle with the right of way when necessary.
- Use appropriate signals.
- Check your mirrors and check over your shoulder to view blind spot.
- Maintain your speed.
- Do not talk or text on your cell phone or other mobile device while driving.
- Do not eat or drink while driving.
- Use caution when changing music or other controls.
- Pull over safely to the side of the road if you need to make a phone call or check a map.
The North Shore can be cluttered with traffic and winter driving is a challenge. Safety checks for your car before departing and safe driving with awareness of changing road conditions can help keep you safe and healthy.