BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ -- Winter storms, bad weather and sloppy road conditions are a factor in nearly half a million crashes and more than 2,000 road deaths every winter, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. In fact, about 46 percent of all crashes involving bad weather take place in the winter.

This weekend's forecast, which has precipitated New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy to declare a State of Emergency, could see an initial round of snow late Saturday transiton to freezing rain and/or ice later in the evening or during the day on Sunday.

AAA analyzed bad weather and crashes over a five-year period. The study found that the highest proportion of crashes involving bad weather happens overnight from 6 p.m. until 5:59 a.m., when visibility is limited and roads are most likely to freeze. Previous research found the rates of fatal crashes are higher during the first snowfall of the year than on subsequent days with snow.

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Tips if you have to drive in snowy and icy conditions:

  • Stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Even if you can drive well in bad weather, it’s better to avoid taking unnecessary risks.
  • Drive slowly. Adjust your speed down to account for lower traction when driving on snow or ice.
  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Apply the gas slowly to regain traction and avoid skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry and take time to slow down for a stoplight or stop sign. It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
  • Increase your following distance. Allow five to six seconds of following distance between your vehicle and any vehicle in front of you. This space allows you time to stop safely if the other driver brakes suddenly.
  • Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal. 
  • Don’t stop if you can avoid it. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.
  • Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed downhill slowly.
  • Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.

AAA encourages drivers to be vigilant when hitting the road this winter and to always stay prepared by carrying an emergency roadside kit in your vehicle (more than 40 percent of motorists do not carry an emergency kit). Drivers who brave bad weather should remain cautious and always be prepared by packing an emergency roadside kit.

  • Mobile phone and car charger
  • First-aid kit
  • Blankets
  • Drinking water/snacks for everyone in the car including pets
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Rags, paper towels or pre-moistened wipes
  • Basic toolkit including duct tape and warning devices such as flares or reflectors
  • Ice scraper/snow brush
  • Jumper cables/jump pack
  • Traction aid such as sand, salt or non-clumping cat litter
  • Tarp, raincoat and gloves
  • Shovel

“There is a disproportionate number of crashes this time of year involving bad weather and winter storms,” said Robert Sinclair Jr., manager of media Relations for AAA Northeast. “Snow and sleet can cause significant safety problems by reducing visibility and making it difficult to safely maneuver or stop, but by being vigilant behind the wheel, motorists can help to reduce the number of crashes and fatalities.”