Winter Driving in Berkshires Takes Preparation, CareMany people carry a snow brush and jumper cables in their car during the winter months, and think they're well prepared.
It's smart to pack a flashlight and boots, many experts suggest. A small shovel, a cellphone charger, antifreeze, basic tools and an extra blanket could prove useful as well.
And don't forget the kitty litter, which can help in a pinch.
"It can get you out of a snow bank and it's a lot easier than carrying around a bag of sand," said David Raposa, managing director of public affairs for AAA.
In light of falling temperatures and more snow, Raposa and local business owners shared suggestions with the Eagle about winter car safety.
Road conditions have contributed to many accidents in the Berkshires already this season, including a head-on collision in Williamstown on Thursday that killed one woman and seriously injured three others. Police believe road conditions may have contributed to the crash.
It's important to understand how snow and ice on the road surface can affect your ability to control your vehicle.
"The difference snow tires make is like night and day," said Andrew Newton, owner of Crawford's Service on West Housatonic Street in Pittsfield. "[Manufacturers of snow tires] use a softer compound in the rubber, so it digs into the snow instead of riding on top of it."
Bob Senger, owner of Braytonville Garage on State Road in North Adams, agreed.
"A lot of people think they can go the year round without but around here you really are better off with the snows," Senger said. "If you drive every day, get them on."
Raposa said a little planning goes a long way in preventing an accident.
"One thing people don't do enough is give themselves extra time," Raposa said. "They start driving before they clear the snow off the car. It affects visibility and sometimes blocks your lights and directionals. In this department, road safety starts before you even put the car in gear."
Senger highlighted the difference made by anti-lock brakes, which are featured in most cars on the road today.
Years ago, he said, driving instructors told people if they were in a skid situation to turn the wheel in the direction of the skid.
"Now with the anti-lock brakes you just steer where you want the vehicle to go," Senger said. "It does take longer to stop but you have better control in a skid situation."
"The worst thing you can do is slam on the brakes," he said. "As if it was a dry day, just turn the wheel in the direction you want to go."
To avoid getting stranded, all advised that people check their car batteries and consider replacement of batteries older than four years.
Phil Demers - Berkshire Eagle
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