As each winter storm ends and it's time to get back the daily grind, getting out of the house and back on the roads could come with some risk and potential injury.
Experts from the Stony Brook University Trauma Center share some tips that go beyond the usual winter safety driving advice and touch upon those often overlooked inconveniences that winter storms leave behind in order to decrease injuries and major accidents.
- Clear Off Your Car, Completely -- "Take the time to clear off all windows, mirrors, headlights, roofs and hoods," says James Vosswinkel, MD, Chief of Trauma, Emergency Surgery and Surgical Critical Care, Stony Brook Medicine. "There are already plenty of dangers on the road, don't add reduced visibility to the mix. Snow left on car hoods and roofs will fall off when driving and can be dangerous to the cars behind you and increase accidents."
- Be on the Lookout for Pedestrians -- "Sidewalks and shoulders have been covered by plowed snow forcing people to walk on the street and much closer to traffic," says Vosswinkel. "Be on alert and lookout for pedestrians. Also take some extra caution at bus and train stations, anywhere that walkers may be."
- Be Careful at Intersections -- "Plowed snow means that there is less room on the roads in general," says Vosswinkel. "It's common for a shoulder or an extra lane to go missing under the plowed snow. Even a familiar intersection can be dangerous. To prevent potential accidents, approach intersections slowly and anticipate that it may have less room for you to navigate."
- Go Slowly through Puddles -- "Automobiles can hydroplane and lose control causing an accident," says Jane McCormack, RN, Trauma Program Manager at Stony Brook Medicine. "There could also be a large pot hole hidden below a puddle, causing vehicles to get stuck."
- Walk safely -- "In any weather condition, you will most likely see a car before the driver sees you," says McCormack. "If you must walk in the street, walk facing the oncoming cars, as far to the right as possible, and wear reflective and/or bright clothing to make it easier to be seen." McCormack also says to pay close attention to the oncoming traffic in case cars slide towards you out of control.
- Clear Paths to Fire Hydrants, Mailboxes, and Storm Drains -- "Fire Hydrants should be cleared in case of an emergency," says Kristi L. Ladowski, MPH, Injury Prevention & Outreach Coordinator, Stony Brook Trauma Center. "Mailboxes and house numbers should be clear as well making it easier for emergency responders to locate your home if needed." Ladowski also reminds to be aware of clogged storm drains, especially as the snow begins to melt. The melting snow will cause flooding if drains are not clear.
- Be Courteous When You Clearing Snow from Your Property -- "Do not shovel snow into the street," says Ladowski. "It can be dangerous for drivers, and cause hazardous driving conditions." Also remember to clear off any paved sidewalk on your property to allow pedestrians to pass safely. And be mindful of mail delivery and waste removal services when clearing snow to leave them enough room.
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