Common Causes of Winter Motor Vehicle Accidents in New York City

by Shulman & Hill

Every year in the United States, there are on average over 5 million motor vehicle accidents. Of that number, approximately 21% are estimated to be directly caused by adverse weather. While snow is one common culprit, sleet and heavy rainfall, both of which are common in the NYC metro area, are even more likely to be at fault.

One of the benefits of living in an urban environment such as New York City is a shared infrastructure that helps address issues of extreme weather. Ideally, there are many options New Yorkers can take in times of inclement weather, whether they be a bus, taxi, rideshare service like Lyft or Uber, subway, ferry, or drive their own car in order to commute. However, especially in the outer boroughs, a lack of transit infrastructure can lead to traffic and safety concerns, especially during hazardous weather conditions like snowstorms.

2021 New York City Winter Accident Statistics

Every year in the United States, there are on average over 5 million motor vehicle accidents. Of that number, approximately 21% are estimated to be directly caused by adverse weather. While snow is one common culprit, sleet and heavy rainfall, both of which are common in the NYC metro area, are even more likely to be at fault. Slick road conditions and poor visibility from heavy rain are often cited as likely causes of motor vehicle accidents. Wintertime is, unfortunately, no exception.

In New York City, the most recent data available from the New York Police Department reports 2,349 motor vehicle accidents taking place in the last month alone. Of these more than 2,000 collisions, 854 of them resulted in injuries or even fatalities.

The most common cause of vehicle accidents in the past month in New York City was driver inattention or distraction. Winter weather can make even the most minor distractions all the more dangerous for everyone on the road. When roads are slick or visibility poor, adding in a distracted driver puts everyone in the vicinity at heightened risk of being in an accident.

NYC Has Already Reported Fatal Winter Accidents in 2022

In January 2022 alone, winter weather advisories have been enacted all across the New York City region and parts of New Jersey. This past month saw icy roads across the boroughs caused by freezing rain. These conditions contributed to at least two possible weather-related deaths, as well as multiple school and road closures. Black ice warnings were in place for many roads and bridges across the city, with freezing conditions making rainy conditions even more hazardous than usual.

Moving forward, meteorologists predict less snowfall than usual for the rest of New York City’s winter. However, less snow does not necessarily equate to safer road conditions. Heavy rainfall and sleet can be just as risky, if not more so, for drivers. Plummeting temperatures this past January have prompted city officials to ask that New York drivers assume all wet pavement is black ice.

Tips For Winter Weather Driving in NYC

1. Leave room for snowplows

In New York City, one common cause of accidents is crowding snowplows. New York’s Safe Winter Driving Campaign reminds residents that New York State snowplows covered nearly 10 million miles of road during the 2020-2021 winter. That distance is equivalent to traveling to the moon and back 21 times. During times of inclement weather, it is important to give plenty of space to snowplows and other street cleaning vehicles in order to allow them to function properly.

2. Stay focused

Distracted driving is dangerous driving. During winter conditions, it is more important than ever to be patient and stay focused on the road. In New York City especially, distractions can arise at any moment. Pedestrians, cyclists, delivery drivers, and more share busy urban areas with cars and trucks. Take extra time to check intersections before turning, and use adequate signals when changing lanes.

3. Consider alternative transit options

New Yorkers are lucky enough to have alternative transit options to use, such as the subway, when the roads get bad. If at all possible, it can be helpful to avoid driving on days with intense inclement weather.

Understanding Winter Weather Accident Liability

If you are injured in an accident during a snowstorm, rainstorm, or other inclement weather, you may be tempted to think that only the environment was at fault. However, even during these hazardous conditions, there may be other parties who can be considered responsible. Examples of negligence during winter weather accidents may include (but are not limited to):

  • Failure to drive with reasonable caution: In cases of inclement weather, this could mean driving below the speed limit and/or with extra care.
  • Failure to remove snow or ice from vehicles: Drivers should remove all snow and ice from their vehicles before driving to ensure they can see as clearly as possible as well as to prevent snow or ice from blowing off of their roofs and reducing visibility for the vehicles behind them.
  • Distracted driving: Even with bad weather, distracted drivers may still be held liable for their reckless behavior, turning a risky situation into a truly unsafe one on winter roads.
  • Reckless driving: Speeding, driving aggressively, and ignoring traffic signals are always dangerous but particularly so when roads may be icy and visibility poor.

What to Do If You Are Injured in an Accident in New York City

If you are injured in a winter motor vehicle accident and believe that someone else was at fault, you may be eligible for financial compensation. After seeking treatment from a doctor and documenting the event as much as possible, an experienced personal injury attorney should be your next call. The expert car accident attorneys at Shulman & Hill have years of experience helping injured New Yorkers seek financial compensation for their losses and can help you investigate the cause of your accident and the potentially liable parties.

Whether you were behind the wheel, in the car, or on the sidewalk, if you were injured in an accident and someone else was at fault, get in touch with Shulman & Hill today to learn about your legal rights and options. Our no-cost, no-obligation legal consultation can help you make informed decisions about how to proceed.

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