Console & Hollawell Blog

Local Doctor Criminally Charged for Painkiller “Pill Mill”

By Richard Console on January 30, 2015 - Comments off

Authorities indicted a Philadelphia doctor yesterday on the charge of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. Dr. William J. O’Brien III, 49, allegedly ran “pill mills” out of his offices on the 9800 block of Bustleton Avenue in Philadelphia and on Rolling Lane in Levittown, Bucks County. The physician charged patients hundreds of dollars in cash for appointments and refills on prescription narcotics, and he distributed these prescriptions without conducting medical exams, ABC News reported.

With prescription painkiller abuse and overdoses a raging public health crisis that kills well over 10,000 people each year, there’s absolutely no room for pill mills in the offices of our trusted doctors. Pennsylvania physicians over-prescribing painkillers or selling them in pill mills can only lead to tragedy.

OxycodonePowerful opioid painkiller oxycodone and benzodiazepine anti-anxiety drug Xanax were the two medications named in the charges. Both are controlled substances. Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

The Charges against Dr. O’Brien

In addition to the charge of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances – which his receptionist, 29-year-old Angela Rongione, has also been charged with – Dr. O’Brien faces 26 counts of “illegally distributing oxycodone and Xanax outside the usual course of professional practice and for no legitimate medical purpose,” according to ABC News. Reports alleged that O’Brien falsified patient records to show that a medical examination had taken place, even though no such exam actually happened. Patients paid $250 in cash for their first appointment and prescription and another $200 for each appointment to get a refill, according to ABC News. By the end of 2014, federal authorities believed the pill mill had brought in nearly $1,800,000.

The charges against Dr. O’Brien are serious. If convicted of conspiracy, he could spend 20 years in prison, ABC News reported. Each count of illegally distributing the medication could carry a five-year sentence plus fines.

Local License Suspensions and Criminal Charges

Dr. O’Brien isn’t the first local physician to get in trouble for his painkiller prescribing practices in recent years. Last July, the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners suspended the license of Merchantville family doctor Adam C. Gilliss for painkiller prescribing practices that “would present clear and imminent danger to public health, safety and welfare.”

Some dangerous doctors prescribe narcotic painkillers inappropriately for years before a government agency steps in – like the Philadelphia physician whose over-prescribing practices caused the deaths of three of our clients. As we represented the families of these deceased patients, we got the FBI involved and got this particular doctor’s license suspended. We knew it was the only way to protect the rest of the physician’s patients from meeting the same fate as our clients who had lost their lives.

Doctors know that controlled substances are controlled for a reason – because they’re dangerous. If physicians don’t take appropriate measures when prescribing these drugs, their patients can develop dependence and addictions. They can overdose, even while taking the medications as directed, if their doctors fail to choose the right dosage. When physicians engage in potentially dangerous prescribing practices, as Dr. O’Brien is alleged to have done, the legal system is there to stop them. Criminal charges like these and civil lawsuits like the ones we’ve filed on behalf of our clients’ families can keep reckless doctors from continuing to endanger patients’ lives.

Posted in: Philadelphia

 

Deflategate Trumps Concussions in Super Bowl Coverage

By Richard Console on January 30, 2015 - Comments off

For better or for worse, Super Bowl XLIX is already making history, and the game hasn’t even happened yet. Lost amid the seemingly nonstop news coverage of the Deflategate scandal – rounded out with controversy surrounding this year’s advertisements and the usual halftime show hype – is a more important, though far less amusing, matter. With even more research showing the connection between brain damage and football, the biggest NFL game of the year is the perfect time to talk about concussions and ways to make the sport safer – not to ignore the issue in favor of something more frivolous.

Super Bowl XLVIII won’t go so far as to suggest, as NPR did in 2013, to boycott watching the Super Bowl, but I do think we consumers, media users, and audience members can push the NFL and the media to put brain injuries in the spotlight. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

What Super Bowl XLIX Coverage Is Missing

Chances are, you’ve heard plenty about the big game airing Sunday. Maybe you’ve heard that the average ticket price skyrocketed to more than double last year’s price – $6,459.21, according to MSN. Then there’s the latest (and to many, including Forbes, the dumbest) NFL scandal, “Deflategate.” The cheating scandal has been in the news since the story first broke – shortly after the championship game that decided which AFC team would go to the Super Bowl – that a number of footballs used by the New England Patriots were not inflated to NFL standards (perhaps, some argue, intentionally deflated). To add in another distraction, already there have been advertisements so controversial they’ve already been pulled from the Super Bowl commercial lineup, and of course the yearly hype about the most anticipated commercials and the halftime show.

Yet even if the Super Bowl seems to be everywhere in the news right now, an important topic, one that took the spotlight if only for a brief moment last year, seems to be missing this year. In 2014, Super Bowl Sunday began with a speech by football legend Joe Namath – a speech that highlighted the severity of head injuries in football, The Huffington Post reported. At the time, the NFL was still trying to settle a class action lawsuit involving thousands of former players (and the families of some deceased players) over brain damage sustained from playing the sport. Now final approval for the settlement is expected soon, NJ.com reported, and it seems that concussions no longer make the cut for media coverage when competing with more lighthearted scandals.

That doesn’t mean the problem has gone away, though.

The Broader Impact of Football Brain Injuries

Just this week, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine published a new study on brain injuries among professional football players, the Journal Sentinel reported. Researchers compared diagnostic testing of former NFL players – some with a history of numerous concussions and others with no diagnosed head injuries –to test results of regular patients of the same age. The retired football players had significant damage, particularly in the parts of the brain that affect verbal memory and mood. The researchers hope their study could influence safety in the game, from the development of new safety equipment to how the NFL handles and even tries to prevent head injuries.

Don’t expect this new research into football-related brain damage to slip into mass media coverage of the Super Bowl, though – the spotlight is already on deflated footballs, a subject that is, apparently, much more newsworthy. Earlier this week, USA Today reported that though an objective, simple test to diagnose concussions by measuring rapid eye movements does exist, the NFL still doesn’t use it – even after all of the concussion lawsuits. So far, I haven’t heard this story spreading across the Internet, but shouldn’t it be a bigger scandal than a few underinflated footballs?

CTEAutopsies on the brains of dozens of deceased former NFL players have shown signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease linked to having a history of concussions. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Concussions in the NFL have a broader impact. It’s not only professional football that’s dangerous – lawsuits at the college level, too, have pushed sports injuries at every level into the spotlight. More focus on research, like the kind the NFL paid Harvard University $100,000,000 to begin conducting in 2013, can help make football – and maybe other sports, too – safer for all ages and levels, but only if we refuse to let the matter drop. Could what we learn from studying concussions in football players ultimately help our healthcare providers more effectively treat all brain injury patients – not only those who got hurt playing sports, but also those injured in falls, car crashes, and assaults?

The stakes are high. This Super Bowl Sunday, let’s not let something as serious as brain injuries fade from the football conversation.

Posted in: Current Events

 

How to Never Shovel Your Driveway Again

By Richard Console on January 28, 2015 - Comments off

Never Shovel Your Driveway Again

With the potential for snow in this week’s forecast, many of us are dreading the chore of snow removal. This one tip can make your cleanup much easier, and it works for everything from driveways to walkways. Put away the shovel – if you plan ahead, you might not need it at all!

The Most Efficient Way to Clear Snow (No Shovel Needed)

You don’t need much – a tarp, some rope or twine, and most importantly, time. If you wait until the snow starts falling, it will be too late.

Preparation

  1. If desired, cover the driveway in a snow melt chemical (salt or otherwise – whatever you would usually use) and put down ropes or another item – use your resources and your imagination – that will serve as a barrier between the tarp and the ground. These steps are optional, but they can help prevent the tarp from sticking to the ground if conditions get icy.
  2. Spread your tarp or plastic sheet over the desired area. If you’re expecting a lot of snow, it might be easier to use smaller pieces of tarp that you will be able to move without much effort.
  3. Use rope, twine, or string to create handles that will help you move the tarp when it’s time.
  4. Finally, if the conditions are windy, find something to weigh down the tarp so it doesn’t blow away.

Removal

  1. After the snow falls, find the rope handles you made and use them to pull the tarp off of your driveway or walkway.
  2. Empty the snow somewhere that won’t be a hassle – on your lawn or on either side of your driveway, but not in the road. Pushing more snow into the road is unsafe, and in many places, illegal.
  3. You’re done! Enjoy the time you’ve reclaimed by not having to shovel.

Instructables.com bills this as “the laziest way imaginable” to clear a driveway, but I prefer to think of it as the most efficient method. After all, shoveling snow isn’t a task most of us find valuable in and of itself. Sure, the movements can burn a few calories, but probably not so many that it’s better than your usual workout routine. The time we spend shoveling takes us away from something more important or something we would rather be doing. Just think how much valuable time you can take back if you never have to shovel your driveway again.

Posted in: Current Events

 

You Won’t Believe What Causes Half of Deadly Teen Crashes

By Richard Console on January 27, 2015 - Comments off

Car crashes kill more 18- to 25-year-olds in the United States than any other cause – but if you’re a parent of a teen or young adult driver, you don’t need to hear the statistics. You already know how scary it is to think of your child alone on the roads, at the mercy of other, possibly reckless, drivers and without the benefit of having years of driving experience. January is Teen Driving Awareness Month, and I’m about to make you aware of a truly disturbing statistic: drugs and alcohol play a role in half of fatal collisions involving 16- to 25-year-olds, MSN reported.

Drinking and drivingThough illegal, underage drinking is so common that 70 percent of 18-year-olds admit to it – and worse, teens often binge drink, the National Institutes of Health reported. Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

Tragedy by the Numbers

chart - teen drinking and driving

In more than 50 percent of car accidents studied in which a teen or young adult driver died, that driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. What exactly were these ill-fated young drivers under the influence of when they made the mistake of getting behind the wheel impaired and paid for that mistake with their lives?

Though operating a vehicle under the influence of marijuana can definitely be dangerous, alcohol was the culprit in more than one-third of accidents that killed young drivers. Among teen and young adult drivers killed under the influence, alcohol alone accounted for nearly three-quarters of the deaths.

For those drivers under 21, no amount of alcohol is legal. Yet even those drivers who were of legal drinking age clearly did not know their limits, because their alcohol use left them too impaired to drive safely. Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s nothing short of tragic when those mistakes cost young people their lives.

Talk to Your Teen

Parents of teen drivers often feel helpless when they think about the possibility of their child being in a serious accident. They’re right – they can do little to make their young driver operate the vehicle more safely. What they can do is talk to their teen before they ever get behind the wheel.

Talk about the statistics. More than that, talk to your teen about drugs and alcohol, and how dangerous it is to drive while impaired by any substance – or even while drowsy. Let your child know that even if they make a mistake like using drugs or alcohol illegally, they should never get behind the wheel. Talk about options they have if they ever feel that they, or friends who are driving them, aren’t fit to drive for any reason – illegal drugs, alcohol, over-the-counter medicine, prescription drugs, drowsiness. No matter what, paying for a taxi or risking getting grounded by mom and dad is a far better outcome than getting behind the wheel while drunk or high and hurting someone.

Posted in: Car Accidents

 

3 Quick Tips for Safely Shoveling Snow

By Richard Console on January 21, 2015 - Comments off

Shoveling Safety Tips

No one loves to shovel snow – play in it, maybe, but not shovel it. Most of us regard this winter chore as a necessary evil, but we still don’t appreciate just how hazardous shoveling can be to our health.

Every year, snow shoveling mishaps send around 11,500 people to the emergency room, some for life-threatening conditions. The dangerous combination of cold temperatures and physical exertion – shoveling snow for just two minutes can raise heart rates to dangerous levels – causes approximately 100 people to suffer deadly heart attacks while shoveling annually. Even among healthy people, shoveling snow in the cold can increase your blood pressure more than intentional exercise like running on a treadmill. Unfortunate snow clearers also suffer injuries from overexerting their muscles, falling on the ice, and getting hit by shovels, causing painful conditions like soft tissue damage and lower back injuries. The best way to protect yourself and prevent your family from having to rush to the ER is by taking the right precautions to make shoveling snow as safe as possible.

1. Limit Layers.

When the temperature is below freezing, it makes sense to bundle up – but not too much. After all, you’re not just going out to admire the scenery. You’re on a mission. Shoveling snow for half an hour can easily burn 200 to 300 calories or more, which means you’re getting a pretty good workout. Wearing too many layers can leave you drenched in sweat before you even finish clearing the driveway.

Instead of overloading on the layers, choose winter clean-up clothes strategically. A good rule of thumb is to dress in three layers:

  • Thermal underwear (long John’s, anyone?)
  • Insulation (think a fleece hoodie thick enough to keep you warm, but loose enough to easily take off if you get too hot)
  • A shell (this is where your winter coat comes in, protecting you from direct exposure to the cold, wet snow)

With a hat, a scarf, and a pair of supportive boots, you’ll be ready for the cold without being too hot.

2. Push, Don’t Lift the Snow.

Lifting the snow exerts more energy than merely pushing it. Not only is this dangerous to snow clearers who suffer from heart conditions or aren’t in the best physical shape, but it’s inefficient for anyone trying to get the job done faster. When you lift and throw snow over your shoulder, you can twist and strain your muscles, putting even healthy and fit snow clearers at risk for a muscle injury.

Instead of lifting heavy shovelfuls of snow and stressing your muscles with the turns and twists required to throw it, you can more efficiently and safely clear a driveway, walkway, or any area by simply pushing the snow to the side. You also won’t have to worry about the wind catching airborne snow and blowing it back into your path so that you have to shovel the same snow twice. Pushing snow is safer, faster, and all-around better than lifting it.

3. Use the Right Tools.

If you grab a shovel immediately, or if you think all shovels are the same, you might be approaching your snow removal task all wrong – and it could make your work more dangerous and more difficult.

  • For light snow, use a broom to sweep surfaces clear. It’s faster and easier than a shovel, and it works better.
  • Consider a push shovel – the kind shaped like a snowplow – to help you more efficiently push the snow along.
  • If you must scoop the snow, use a shovel with a bent handle that will allow you to avoid bending over and risk hurting your back.

By taking a few precautions, you can make snow shoveling a safer activity for everyone you love.

Posted in: Current Events

 

Freezing Rain and Multicar Pileups Kill Five

By Richard Console on January 19, 2015 - Comments off

Yesterday’s freezing rain claimed at least five lives in our region and caused hundreds of cars to collide – and the danger isn’t over yet. Icy patches remained on roadways, parking lots, and walkways this morning, putting drivers at risk of crashing and pedestrians at risk of slipping and falling on ice. With flooding in nearby areas, including Mount Laurel, even ice that melts during the warmest part of today could refreeze when the temperature drops tonight. Whether you’re driving or walking, use extra caution. By the time you see there’s a dangerous condition, it could be too late.

freezing rain

Through windows and windshields, Sunday’s storm looked like just rain – when in reality, it was freezing rain, the kind that covered roads and walkways in potentially deadly ice. Photo Credit: Flickr.

The Pileups

Sunday was a day of massive multicar pileups thanks to widespread black ice across much of the Northeast, including our region. New Jersey State Police fielded reports of 428 collisions on Sunday related to the dangerous conditions, ABC News reported, and they referred to South Jersey roads as “a skating rink.” At least one death took place on one such road – Route 55 in Gloucester County, NBC reported. The New Jersey Turnpike was the site of yet another multivehicle collision, The Wall Street Journal reported. Farther north, another road fatality happened on Interstate 280 in Roseland, The New York Times reported.

Pennsylvania roads saw several major collisions and a few fatalities because of this storm. The Delaware River Port Authority closed the Benjamin Franklin, Betsy Ross, Commodore Barry, and Walt Whitman Bridges to treat them, USA Today reported. Still, ice remained on some of the biggest highways in Pennsylvania, with devastating results.

  • In Montgomery County, the drivers of more than 60 vehicles found themselves in a giant pileup on I-76, Yahoo! News A 31-year-old Philadelphia man was killed and another 30 people suffered injuries in the collision, which left the road closed for hours.
  • Delaware County was home to a 15+ car pileup on I-476 that began when a tractor trailer driver lost control of the truck, leaving it stopped blocking all lanes of travel. Two people were killed in this collision and five more were injured, one severely, Yahoo! News reported. Both of the deceased victims died when their cars become lodged beneath the tractor trailer and were pronounced dead at the scene, NBC
  • Another deadly crash occurred in Pike County, on an icy section of I-84. A car overturned, ejecting both a 34-year-old man who sadly did not survive and a 12-year-old boy whose injuries were described as critical, according to NBC.
  • More multicar collisions left traffic backed up into the afternoon on multiple segments of I-95. Affected areas included northbound between exits 20 and 22, southbound between exit 46B and U.S. 1 South, and northbound from the exit for the Philadelphia International Airport and exit 17, Philly.com reported.

Today, our hearts go out to the people killed or injured in these accidents and to their families. This is surely a difficult time for everyone involved in the tragic accidents.

Staying Safe in Freezing Rain

The most surefire way to avoid a crash or a fall in freezing rain is by staying indoors – which is what authorities from Connecticut to Maryland urged citizens to do across the Northeast. Unfortunately, not everyone is willing or able to heed this advice. People have to go to work, to doctor’s appointments, and to other events that can’t be cancelled due to freezing rain.

If you must drive (or walk) in conditions like yesterday’s freezing rain, treat the roads, parking lots, and walkways with as much caution as you would treat a major snow storm – even if it seems you’re being overly careful. Just because you can’t see the ice doesn’t mean it’s not there, and once you slide on it, it could be too late to avoid a collision or an injury. Accelerate and brake slowly and gently, drive at a slower speed than you usually would, and leave plenty of space between your car and the vehicle in front of you. If you can’t stay home, driving cautiously is the best way to protect yourself from a potentially deadly collision on icy roads.

Posted in: Current Events

 

Do Medicare Cutbacks on Ambulance Payments Harm NJ Patients?

By Richard Console on January 15, 2015 - Comments off

You might think of ambulances as a means for transporting critically ill or injured patients to the emergency room, but a number of Americans rely on them for medically necessary non-emergency transportation. They’re a way for disabled dialysis patients, for example, to make it to their dialysis appointments or a way to transfer hospitalized patients to another facility for a procedure not related to an imminently life-threatening condition. For these patients, there may be no other way to safely reach their destination. Yet recent Medicare cutbacks on payments for these necessary non-emergency trips could be making it harder for patients throughout the state to get to the medical facilities they need to go to.

AmbulanceA single ambulance ride can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. A Medicare denial could prevent patients who have a true medical need to use an ambulance on a non-emergency basis from getting to their healthcare facilities. Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

How the Changes Affect Patients

Beginning in late 2014, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina became the first three states in a pilot program in which Medicare requires ambulance operators to obtain prior authorization for transporting the patient in a non-emergency but medically necessary ambulance ride, according to MedPage Today. If the non-emergency transfers must continue for more than 40 round-trip rides in 60 days – which might not be an outrageous possibility in the case of a chronic condition – another authorization request is required.

A month and a half into the program, ambulance operators are facing disturbing results, NJ.com reported: a majority of their requests for prior authorization were denied. Some denials reportedly resulted from factors that seem unimportant, like a physician’s illegible signature or paperwork not containing the patient’s name and ID number on every single page, according to NJ.com. Some ambulance operators have resubmitted requests, only to see them denied a second time.

For patients who rely on ambulances to transport them to their medically necessary appointments, the impact of this change can be significant. Some of them might have no other way to get where they need to go, though NJ.com reported that so far “it is unclear if patients are missing dialysis treatments because ambulance operators are not getting prior approval.” The changes could also hurt the economy, making it harder for respectable ambulance companies to make enough money to stay in business.

Searching for a Better Solution

The reason behind the new program is a noble one: to fight fraud. Over a nine-year period, the number of Medicare-covered ambulance trips increased by 69 percent and dialysis-related ambulance trips increased 269 percent, according to the Office of the Inspector General. Investigations revealed that at least some of this growth had to do with what NJ.com called “excessive improper payments.”

Already, the high cost of healthcare in the United States is a major problem that affects all of us. Certainly fraud must be stopped, especially when it’s a government program like Medicare – paid for by taxpayers – that’s stuck paying the fraudulent charges. However, is making it harder for people who really do need medical transport services to get them and weakening the reputable ambulance companies responsible for transport really the only way to accomplish this goal? “They’re … creating a nightmare problem [for] the neediest patients,” a source told Kaiser Health News – and that’s a serious issue that no New Jerseyan should have to face.

Posted in: Current Events

 

Easy Tips for Clearing Ice and Snow from Your Car

By Richard Console on January 10, 2015 - Comments off

Never Scrape Your Windshield Again

No one loves to clean ice and snow from their car, but with a little resourcefulness, you can make the task a lot easier – or stop having to do it altogether.

Clearing Your Car Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult

Make it easier to remove snow and ice from your car by preventing it from collecting there in the first place. Even if you can’t park in a garage or other covered location, there are ways to protect your car from the elements.

  • Use an ice or frost prevention spray. Commercial sprays on the market cost as little as a few dollars, or you can make your own by combining three parts vinegar with one part water. Spray the substance on your windows beforehand so the snow, ice, or frost can’t stick to the surface. All you’ll have to do is brush off the snow and go. Just be careful to keep the compound on the windows and not on the body of your car – vinegar’s acidity could damage your car’s paint job, especially over repeated exposure.
  • Better yet, avoid having to deal with the snow altogether by covering all or part of the car. A large tarp will work, but so will many household items you already have on hand. Lay an old area rug, sheet, towel, or even a piece of cardboard over strategic parts of your vehicle, like the windshield. Make sure to somehow tie down or anchor the cover so it can’t blow away – bungee cords work well, but they’re not the only option. You can buy commercial covers designed to fit over the windshield of specific models of cars, too, if you want something that looks neater and don’t mind spending some money – some of these cost $50 or more.

Too late to prevent the ice from forming? That’s okay. You don’t have to spend 15 minutes or more painstakingly sawing away at a thick sheet of ice on your windshield. Get your defrosters going, and then spray down the windshield with a mixture of rubbing alcohol and water or dish soap with 70 percent isopropyl alcohol. This easy DIY ice melt mixture will get you on your way in no time.

Not Just Dangerous, But Illegal

We’ve all been there – the air is below freezing, the snow might still be falling, and we’re eager to get out of the cold and start heading toward our destinations. It might be tempting to scrape off just enough of the snow and ice to let you peek out your windshield, but that’s not safe or smart – especially since you could get fined. In New Jersey, it’s illegal to drive without first removing any snow and ice from the vehicle, especially from the roof.

  • If getting caught by the police the worst thing that happens, you could pay a fine of $25 to $75, even if no snow actually flies off of your vehicle.
  • Hurt someone or damage property of any kind, and you’re looking at fines of $200 to $1,000.

Last year’s harsh winter led to stricter enforcement of the law than in the past, CBS News reported, so expect police in many municipalities to continue stopping offenders this year. Clearing the snow and ice from your car as completely as possible will help you avoid fines and make sure that you’re not inadvertently causing an accident – one for which law enforcement could hold you criminally responsible, according to NJ.com.

 

Knowing This One Thing Will Change How You Drive in Snow

By Richard Console on January 9, 2015 - Comments off

Pumping brakes

Know Your Brakes

To pump or not to pump? It’s a question that you can only answer with another question: What kind of brakes do you have?

If you drive a newer car, you don’t have to guess. The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) has required all new vehicles to include Electronic Stability Control since late 2011. An antilock brake system, or ABS, is a necessary part of Electronic Stability Control, which means all new vehicles have them. Even before this federal requirement was in place, ABS brakes came standard in many vehicles and were offered as options in many others.

So how do you know if you have ABS? One way is to check your car owner’s manual, but you don’t even have to do that. When you first turn on your vehicle, check the lights on your dashboard. If you see an amber icon with the letters ABS light up, you know that your car has anti-lock brakes, and that you should never pump them.

Understanding the Different Types of Brakes

The reason behind the old advice to pump the brakes when stopping in snow or on ice was largely to prevent the wheels from “locking,” or ceasing to spin (which leaves the car skidding uncontrollably) when the brakes are slammed on. Since you never want to suddenly brake in icy conditions in the first place, it makes sense to pump traditional brakes when driving on slippery roads.

Antilock brakes, however, are specifically designed not to lock with electronic controls that alter pressure in the vehicle’s brake lines. These brakes essentially “pump themselves,” so all you have to do is keep consistent pressure on the brake pedal and steer as you usually would. There’s no benefit to pumping ABS brakes, and trying to do so can mean it takes longer for you to stop – definitely not something you want when you’re at the mercy of an icy roadway.

No matter what kind of brakes you have, remember to always leave yourself more time for braking when driving in winter weather conditions. Being able to slow to a stop gradually and smoothly makes you less likely to lose control of the car and wind up in a crash.

 

Downshifting Can Get You Out of a Slippery Spot

By Richard Console on January 8, 2015 - Comments off

Downshifting

If you drive a car with automatic rather than manual (stick shift) transmission, you probably don’t think too often about the other gears your car is capable of using. Drive, park, and reverse might accomplish all you need to do on a regular basis. In dangerous winter road conditions, though, there are times when downshifting – shifting the transmission to a lower gear – can help you prevent a disaster.

When to Use a Lower Gear

When the road is so icy that your car doesn’t have the traction it needs to get going or keep going, you might find that stepping on the accelerator only makes the wheels spin uselessly. Shifting into a lower gear – the 1, 2, or 3 on your gear shift – can fix the problem. This isn’t exactly a “hack” – it’s stated right in the New Jersey Driver’s Manual – but it’s important advice that many drivers forget after getting their licenses.

When the engine is in a lower gear, your car won’t go as quickly. If you find yourself sliding or approaching a patch of ice, shifting into a lower gear can also help you slow the car down to stop or avoid a hazard or a collision. Remember how you don’t want to slam on the brakes in winter weather if you can help it? Downshifting can help slow you down gradually, decreasing your risk of making the problem worse. If you’re sliding and hitting the brakes accomplishes nothing, downshifting could slow you down enough to regain at least some control over the vehicle and maybe prevent a serious accident.

A Word of Caution

Shifting into a lower gear at the right moment can be a lifesaver, but the strategy doesn’t work for every winter driving situation. Done needlessly, shifting gears could actually cause you to lose control of the car. Always evaluate the situation to determine whether you should shift gears or take any other action on the icy roadways. Remember, the best way to drive safely in the snow and ice is to take your time accelerating, drive more slowly than usual, and stop gradually.

 

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