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  Director's Message I Message Archive I Biography

Director's Message

January 2010

HTS Director Pam Fischer Pam Fischer
  Winter Driving Safety

Thank you for visiting the Division of Highway Traffic Safety’s website. Charged with ensuring the safety of all who use our roadways, the Division sponsors public education and awareness campaigns, as well as law enforcement initiatives that address an array of traffic safety issues.

With the winter season upon us, preparing yourself and your vehicle for the challenges of safely driving in snow, ice, and sleet is essential. Each year in New Jersey, more than 75,000 crashes occur on snow or ice covered roads, resulting in an average of 10 lives lost and nearly 20,000 injuries.

One of the easiest – but perhaps, most important – ways to ensure everyone stays safe on the roads is to remove all snow and ice from your vehicle before driving. It’s particularly important to clear the hood, windows and roof before getting behind the wheel. Under current state law, motorists who fail to remove ice and snow from their vehicles and cause property damage or injury to others can be cited and fined $200 to as much as $1,000 per offense. In addition, on October 19, 2009, legislation was signed into law amending the current statute; drivers of all vehicles (commercial and passenger) operated on any roadway in the state are required to make all reasonable efforts to remove accumulated snow and ice from all exposed surfaces prior to operation. While the change goes into effect on October 20, 2010, we encourage you to be pro-active and clear your vehicle of all winter debris before taking to the road.

In addition to making sure that all ice and snow is removed from your vehicle, you should also modify your driving behavior based on the current weather conditions. While it’s always safest to stay off the road in inclement weather, if you must travel, the following tips will help ensure that you arrive at your destination safely:

  • Drive slow (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.
  • Try to stay on main roads, if possible. On multi-lane roads, stay in the lane that has been recently cleared.
  • Remain calm behind the wheel. Nervous, sudden movements and quick turns, lane changes or abrupt speed changes can cause skidding.
  • If you skid, don’t brake and don’t 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.
  • Increase your following distance. In winter weather, travel at least eight to 10 seconds behind the car in front of you.
  • Beware of “black ice.” It often appears to be water, but it’s ice.

The Division has developed a palm card reminding motorists to remove ice and snow from their vehicle. Distributed to police departments, AAA offices and other traffic safety agencies, the card also offers winter driving safety tips, and can be downloaded from our web site, at

To further ensure your driving safety during the cold weather months, it’s important to keep your vehicle properly maintained.

  • Tune-up and winterize your vehicle, and check antifreeze and fluid levels in the radiator and battery.
  • Check tire treads. More tread equals more traction.
  • Check the windshield, washer fluids and wiper blades, making sure they’re clean and in good working condition.
  • Maintain at least half a tank of gas, to prevent the fuel line from freezing-up.

Equipping your vehicle with an easily accessible “winter driving safety kit” is also a must. The kit should include: an ice scraper/brush; shovel; jumper cables or battery starter; warm blanket; sand, salt or cat litter (for traction in ice and snow); lock de-icer; safety flares/warning devices; flashlight and new batteries; extra windshield washer fluid; cell phone with a charged spare battery; water and non-perishable food (i.e. granola or protein bars) and, paper towels or a cloth.

We hope you find this information helpful as you travel around the state this winter. The Division’s web site has a wealth of information on a wide array of traffic safety issues. Be sure to visit our site often since new information is added regularly, and feel free to download the educational materials. Enjoy the winter, stay safe, both on and off the road, and always remember to buckle-up, everyone, every ride, regardless of your seating position in the vehicle.

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