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Trenton -- With the winter driving season upon us, highway safety and law enforcement officials today reminded motorists to always clear ice and snow from their vehicles before traveling on New Jersey’s roadways and to use extra caution and care when driving in inclement weather.

According to Division of Highway Traffic Safety Director Pam Fischer, snow and ice left on a vehicle can become deadly projectiles, causing significant and costly damage to other vehicles and potentially fatal injuries to motorists and their passengers.

“Before you get behind the wheel, take a few moments to completely clear your vehicle’s hood, windows and roof,” Fischer said. “This simple task can be a lifesaver for you and everyone else on the road.”

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, Governor Jon S. Corzine signed into law legislation 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, state officials remind all motorists to be pro-active and ensure that their vehicles are clear of all winter debris before taking to the road.

“I firmly believe in the enforcement of this law because in December of 2007, a large slab of ice flew off a car in front of me and came through my windshield,” stated Lieutenant Colonel Juan Mattos, Deputy Superintendent of Operations for the New Jersey State Police. “I had glass all over me and had a tough time getting my car safely to the side of the road. I could have been severely injured or even killed because of that driver's laziness,” Mattos recounted.

“That’s why clearing your vehicle of ice and snow should be as basic as putting a jacket on before you leave the house. It's a couple of minutes well spent to help keep you, and others safe,” Lt. Colonel Mattos added.

In addition to making sure that all ice and snow is removed from your vehicle, motorists should modify their driving behavior based on current weather conditions.

“Each year in New Jersey, more than 75,000 crashes occur on snow and ice covered roads, resulting in an average of 10 lives lost and nearly 20,000 injuries,” Director Fischer said. “While it’s always safest to stay off the road in bad weather, if you must travel, slow down, particularly on exit ramps and bridges; leave ample travel time; allow extra space between your vehicle and others on the road; make sure you turn on your headlights, using low beams when driving in snow; and, buckle-up, every ride.”

“The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) is ready to combat winter storms by clearing our roads, preventing ice formation and maintaining mobility and safety statewide," said Commissioner Stephen Dilts. “NJDOT crews will combine innovative technology and their tremendous experience to fight the winter conditions.”

In anticipation of the inclement weather, motorists are also encouraged to:

  • Tune up and winterize their vehicles, as well as check the radiator, battery, antifreeze, and all other fluid levels.
  • Check tire treads and replace them if they’re unsafe.
  • Check and replace windshield wiper blades if the rubber is cracked and/or brittle. And be sure to check and refill the washer fluid reservoir.
  • Maintain at least a half a tank of gas during the winter to prevent the fuel line from freezing.

Motorists should also keep a winter driving “safety kit” in their vehicles that is easily accessible in the event of an emergency. 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.

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Posted 8:00 PM

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