Winter Driving: How to Get Where You’re Going Safely



The Leonardi’s car after the accident referenced in the story.

What is the first thing you do when you get in a car?

While we all know what the answer is supposed to be, do you put your seatbelt on as soon as you get into the car? If you don’t you could be in serious danger, even if you are going a short distance you need your seatbelt, as an estimated 52 percent of car accidents occur within 5 miles of a person’s home, and 77 percent occur within 15 miles or less, according to a study conducted by Progressive Insurance. I’m guilty as anybody not putting my seatbelt on when riding to school as I live very close, but after my parents got into a car crash 3 weeks ago, putting my seatbelt on is my top priority when getting into a car. Your phone can wait, the minute or less that it takes to put your seatbelt on. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 15,000 lives are saved each year in the United States because drivers and their passengers were wearing seat belts when they were in a car crash. This was the case with my parents and my sister, they were able to come out of the accident with no major injuries. 


Living in Weedsport, there are many deer around, and now the snow is another danger on the road. We have to be cautious when driving at any time but especially this time of year. Around 1:30 pm on Wednesday, November 13th, my dad was driving on Weedsport-Sennett Road and hit a deer, with my mom and my sister in the back seat. My sister Luna was only 9 months old, so she was in her car seat. My dad says the sun was in his eyes and he never saw the deer as it came out of nowhere. I was in school at the time and I didn’t receive the news until after school. According to my mom, once my dad hit the deer they rolled over twice. My mom described the experience as “a nightmare, I felt like I was in a movie, one minute everything was calm Luna was sleeping and I was on my phone and the next we were like on a never-ending roller coaster ride.” Once the car stopped rolling, a car stopped and a couple helped keep them calm and called 9-1-1. My mom says, “I will never forget Luna’s cry, I was so worried that something happened to her since I was in the back seat, I was able to see her and since we were upside down the straps of the car seat held her in. I started screaming ‘get my baby out’ and the couple tried but we couldn’t open the windows.” My dad had tried to break a window so that he could get out and help the baby come out but they wouldn’t break, instead, he got a deep cut that needed stitches. My mom had bruises all over her body from the seatbelt but no other injuries. Once the ambulance came, they were rushed to Upstate Hospital and didn’t return until 10:30 that night. My grandma stayed with my sister in the pediatric section and said that Luna was back to normal, laughing and her cheerful self, smiling at the doctors and nurses. Because of the car seat, Luna was safe and received no injuries. They were so close to home when they got into the accident, this type of accident could happen to anyone. It is important to be aware, even in the winter bring your sunglasses as the sun is still out and always wear your seatbelt. 


As high schoolers, driving is an exciting part of growing up but it can also be a deadly one. Having your seatbelt on can not only save your life but others because in a car crash everything in the car is a moving projectile. Being a new driver, getting into your first car accident can be scary and overwhelming. Here are some things to do after a car crash: 

  1. Check for injuries, if you can try to get out of the vehicle.
  2. Call 9-1-1 if you have any injuries or if the other driver has any and if not call your insurance company.
  3. Try to take pictures of the car and accident to show your insurance and if you get into an accident with another car you should exchange information.
  4. Depending on what your insurance covers and how bad your car is and if another car is involved you might need to file a claim.


A helpful website that takes you through the process of filing a car accident report is: 


To get some helpful tips on how to stay safe on the road, and around our school area this winter season the Johnny Green interviewed our school resource officer, Mrs. Quigley:


Q: Why, in your opinion is wearing a seatbelt so important?


A: “Wearing a seatbelt is the law so you have to do it or there are consequences. Second of all, I have a personal reason I believe you should wear your seatbelt, my mother was in a car accident and the car rolled over and the EMTs stated that the only thing that saved her was her seatbelt. There have also been many accidents in Auburn when I worked there, where young people have died because their car rolled over and they were thrown out of a car. When I was a teenager, a student that I went to school with actually died when he was involved in a car accident which threw him from the car which had hit a tree and he broke his neck.”


Q: What advice would you give to high school drivers?


A: “Pay attention to restrictions – they are there for a reason. Some of the restrictions are only having one passenger under the age of  21 in the car. This is because when you have a lot of friends in your car, you tend to turn up the radio or talk with your friends, which distracts you from paying attention to what is happening on the road. You also shouldn’t drive at night because you don’t have the experience. That’s when most accidents occur as you have drunk people out on the road. Another major distraction is the cellphone if you get caught talking on your cell phone the first time is a 120 days suspension if you get caught a second time it’s for an entire year.”


Q: What should you do when you encounter a deer?


A: “Hunting season is the worst because they all start migrating. So, accidents occur more often during the hunting season. Knowing what to do is difficult because a lot of people say swerve because a deer can do a lot of damage but at the same time when people swerve to miss something they tend to overcorrect. I’ve seen two girls swerve to miss a squirrel and they ended up overcorrecting and hitting a tree, spinning, then hitting a second tree. Both girls smashed their faces on the dashboards and ended up missing their front teeth. As I was walking to the scene I had to step over the dead squirrel. So, they demolished the car, demolished their faces, and they still hit the squirrel. So, my advice would be to have two hands on the steering wheel at all times so that when you see a deer and end up swerving you don’t overcorrect and try to do your best to slow down stop and if possible try not to swerve because deer are moving so you don’t know if you are going to move into its path.”


Q: What would you like new drivers to know while in the parking lot?


A: “I have two machines in my car as cars are coming into the driveway I have a handheld and one on my dashboard so it’s getting the traffic coming from the other direction. So I have both directions covered. The reason we want people to slow down to 10 is that people that are walking through the parking lot have to walk through cars and most of the kids are on their cell phones, and they are not paying attention. So I don’t want any of the new drivers to end up in an accident because they are going to feel bad if they run over one of their fellow friends over. So the speed limit gives the driver an appropriate time to react.”


Q: After an accident what should a new driver do?


A: “The New York state law says you have to report any accident to the police under two conditions if there is any personal injury so even if the person said I have a headache or I strained my neck the driver has to report it to their insurance. The second condition is if there is more than $1,000 worth of damage. You should report an accident within 10 days, but most people report it right away because they want to get their car fixed as soon as possible. Even if you think the damage is not over $1,000 it’s still important to exchange insurance info as well as contact info with the other driver. If you don’t know the person or don’t know that their insurance is valid, I would call the police and have them respond and they will help you through the process. If the police get involved, it’s just a report it’s no big deal and it is always better to be safe than sorry.”