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Addressing the risks of winter driving in New Jersey

The Federal Highway Administration reports that 22 percent of all car accidents are weather-related. With its cold temperatures, freezing rain and heavy snow, winter is perhaps the most dangerous season of all.

There are two factors that drivers should especially watch out for: ice and black ice. Ice can linger on the roads long after freezing temperatures have gone away because the ground always takes longer to warm up than the air. Black ice has a matte appearance that makes the road look wet, so many drivers never know it's there until they lose control.

Drivers should know about the safety precautions they can take to prevent accidents. The most important step is winterization. Every vehicle component must be ready for the winter, including brakes, wiper blades, the defroster and the exhaust system. Tires deflate in cold temperatures, so the pressure should be checked. Drivers should keep an emergency kit in their car, which should contain everything from flashlights and first-aid kits to flares and sleeping bags if feasible.

Safe driving habits also are essential. Drivers should leave plenty of room ahead of them to avoid rear-end collisions, plan trips beforehand, give themselves plenty of time, adjust their speeds and avoid using cruise control. Lights should be on low in the daytime. Drivers also should avoid slamming on the brakes and making sudden turns.

Unfortunately, many drivers don't sufficiently prepare for the winter, leaving them open to charges of negligence if they cause a car accident. Victims of such accidents can consult with a lawyer about filing an injury claim, which, if successful, may cover any medical bills, vehicle repair bills and wages lost due to injuries. An attorney may hire investigators to help with the case as they could reconstruct the accident scene and gather important paperwork to present before the other driver's insurance company.

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