CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Drivers are urged to use caution and to be vigilant on the roads through the winter storm on Tuesday.
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, dangerous winter storms, bad weather, and sloppy road conditions are a factor in nearly half a million crashes and more than 2,000 road deaths in an average winter.
Winter weather and sloppy road conditions are a cause for concern, especially for those up in the hill towns where they typically get more snow. The best and safest advice during snowfall is to just stay off of the roads completely, but if you do have to get in the car and travel somewhere, there are many tips out there to stay safe.
“We urge drivers to watch for slippery conditions today,” said Mary Maguire, Vice President of Public and Government Affairs at AAA Northeast. “Snow and sleet can cause significant safety problems by reducing visibility and making it difficult to safely maneuver or stop. And if you’re headed to the airport, check with your airline before you leave home.”
According to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), you should clear the ice and snow from your car and leave plenty of room for stopping. Don’t use cruise control, and most importantly avoid driving during the worst part of any snowstorm. and stay on the main roads.
Tips by AAA while driving in snowy and icy conditions:
- Stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Even if you can drive well in bad weather, it’s better to avoid taking unnecessary risks by venturing out.
- Drive slowly. Always adjust your speed down to account for lower traction when driving on snow or ice.
- Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Apply the gas slowly to regain traction and avoid skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry and take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember: it takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
- Increase your following distance. Allow five to six seconds of the following distance between your vehicle and any vehicle in front of you. This space allows you time to stop safely if the other driver brakes suddenly.
- Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal. Don’t pump the brakes.
- Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.
- Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed downhill slowly.
- Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.
“More than 40 percent of motorists do not carry an emergency kit in their vehicle,” said Ms. Maguire. “Drivers attempting to brave bad weather should remain cautious and always be prepared by packing an emergency roadside kit.”
22News spoke to one driver about staying safe on the roads during a snowstorm. “Regardless of all-wheel drive, the ice is going to be tame. So you know if you drive slow enough you can come to a complete stop, you know, but don’t speed because if you need to make a stop well there’s no traction they are going to slide,” said Neil McFarlane of Hadley.
Items to consider in an emergency roadside kit includes the following:
- Mobile phone and car charger
- First-aid kit
- Drinking water/snacks for everyone in the car including pets
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Rags, paper towels or pre-moistened wipes
- Basic toolkit including duct tape and warning devices such as flares or reflectors
- Ice scraper/snow brush
- Jumper cables/jump pack
- Traction aid such as sand, salt or non-clumping cat litter
- Tarp, raincoat and gloves
Stan Zawalick of Zawalick Tree and Landscaping told 22News, “Most of the landscapers like down in Springfield and Chicopee area, they haven’t had much snow so I would say they’ve been in rough shape, you know, compared to the guys up in the hill towns and the Greenfield area and that.”
Zawalick Tree and Landscaping says they plan to work over 12 hours Tuesday to make sure roads and side streets are secure for the 62 businesses they have remove snow for.
“We have all our trucks ready to go and the labor and hopefully nothing breaks down. We had two plows break down this morning so we’re only running on one plow right now,” said Zawalick.
Main roads typically get cleaned up first but side roads and streets are typically going to be a bit more risky.