As the weather gets colder, and as we head toward winter, it is time to start getting into the "winter driving" mindset.

The Southern Tier of New York has been seeing less snowfall each season over the past decade or so, and 2011 was one of the least snowiest in history, but safe winter driving can not be taken for granted.  Even with minimal snow fall last year, there were still many accidents due to freezing rain and sleet.

The first thing drivers in New York can do is stay informed of the road conditions.  New Yorkers can access NYSDOT's free 511NY traffic and travel information system by calling 511 or by going to

The New York State Department of Transportation also has these tips for save winter driving:

  • Never follow a snowplow too closely or attempt to pass one. Remember that the highway ahead of the plow is usually snow-covered;
  • Adjust speed for road conditions and maintain a safe distance from other vehicles;
  • Schedule extra time for winter travel and be patient during ice and snow removal operations;
  • Assume that bridge surfaces are slippery, as they freeze more quickly than road surfaces;
  • Watch for black ice, which can be difficult to see but makes conditions slippery when pavement temperatures are below freezing;
  • Have a cell phone handy, if possible, but do not text while driving; distracted driving is illegal and becomes even more dangerous during storm events;
  • Never venture from your vehicle if snowbound;
  • Equip your car with emergency supplies including sand, shovel, flares, booster cables, rope, ice scraper, portable radio, flashlight, blankets and extra warm clothes;
  • Inform a responsible person of your destination, intended route, and estimated time of arrival; and
  •  Keep calm and do not panic in case of a vehicle breakdown, accident, or if you become snowbound.

Also, and especially around the holidays, State Police and local agencies will be cracking down on seat belt use and will also be on the lookout for drunk drivers.

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