Our mid-November snowstorm has mostly melted, but it’s not something most of us will forget any time soon. We jumped from raking leaves to shoveling and blowing wet, heavy snow (full of leaves) in 24 hours.
So before the next storm strikes, here are some things Twin Tiers motorists and property owners need to remember as we head into another unpredictable Northeast winter.
Cleaning up the snow: I recently appeared on WENY-TV’s special report, “Winter Ready 2018,” with the Horseheads TV station’s meteorologists to talk about snow removal. I am always amazed at the number of property owners who don’t clean their sidewalks, driveways, and porches within 12 to 24 hours after a snowfall.
In many cases, if someone falls on their property because the sidewalk or driveway is not cleaned sufficiently in a timely fashion, the property owner could be held liable. Most communities have laws that require property owners to keep their sidewalks clear of snow and ice within a reasonable amount of time after a snowfall or ice storm.
So keep your shovel and salt handy, and if possible, keep your snow blower full of gas and ready to go. If you are a renter, does your landlord handle snow removal or have they delegated that responsibility to you? Be sure to review your lease closely about sidewalk and driveway responsibility.
You can watch my WENY segment here.
About that “move over law” in New York State: Many of us have learned to slow down and move over to another lane when we encounter emergency responders on our four-lane highways, but did you know it’s also the law to do it when you are driving 30 mph or so in a city, town or village? I see people ignoring emergency lights all the time when they’re going slower speeds.
If you did not watch the video above of the officer talking about the importance of the move over law — he survived being struck by a vehicle during a traffic stop — then you should watch it now before reading any more.
Here is another overlooked fact about the law: We all know we are supposed to slow down and pull over safely or stop for emergency vehicles such as police cars, firetrucks, and ambulances, but we are also supposed to provide a slow and safe buffer zone around other non-emergency vehicles such as snow plows, tow trucks, sanitation trucks, and road construction crews.
I strongly recommend you read the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law 1144-a.
If an officer or trooper pulls you over for violating this law, it’s a moving violation that is punishable by two points on your license and a fine of $275. If you’re pulled over for that violation, you might also see some additional charges: Failure to Yield the Right of Way (three points), Improper Passing (three points), Unsafe Lane Change (three points), Reckless Driving (five points), and Speeding (three to 11 points depending on the speed).
So if you see a vehicle with flashing amber, red or blue lights, slow down and decide carefully how you can get around them for your safety, theirs, and everyone else. On a two-lane road, moving over to the other lane may not be a safe move. You may have to stop and move over slowly, so be prepared to slow down and stop.
Also, about that snow on your car: If you have a buildup of snow and ice on your vehicle, it could pose a clear and present danger to vehicles behind you and can illegally obstruct your visibility out of your vehicle. You could be ticketed and face a civil lawsuit because you failed to take reasonable steps to make sure you could see safely.
Bottom line: Our Twin Tiers winters are unpredictable, so my best advice is always to slow down and avoid distractions (your phone!) when driving, keep your sidewalk and driveway clear, clean that snow off your vehicle, and move over for all emergency vehicles.
Thanks for reading,
Best Lawyers’ “2015 & 2017 Lawyer of the Year”