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PEPPERELL — The first snow storm has come and gone, and for some, the harsh driving conditions may have taken them a little off guard.

It is important for drivers to heighten their safety awareness during the cold winter months. As snowfall begins to accumulate, the dip in temperature can actually cause the ground surface to freeze, thus, making road and driving conditions a whole lot more dangerous. Surely, most can envision the slipping and sliding of vehicles on the road each year.

“If we know a big snow storm is coming, we try to fully staff as best we can,” said Pepperell Police Chief David Scott.

For the most part, there were only a couple of minor accidents in Pepperell during this past snowfall. He said that considering the prediction for the storm, however, everyone was doing pretty well. Reason being — the more severe the weather conditions are, the greater the number of accidents there will be.

It’s a winter reality; snow and ice cause collisions.

On the bright side, with the appropriate preparation, drivers may be likely to minimize, or even prevent, their chances of crashing, and ultimately, protecting themselves and their vehicles from injury.

“The best advice I can give is to not drive during a snow storm if you don’t have to,” said Scott.

Unfortunately, we cannot control the weather, and sometimes there is no other choice than to get behind the wheel.

Most drivers are familiar with the precautions such as staying alert and in control and slowing down. But what folks sometimes forget is that to drive safely on wintery roads, the vehicle in use must first be winterized.

Dean Farnum is the service manager at Gervais Ford in Ayer, and he has some helpful maintenance tips.

“It’s certainly not difficult. You do all of the same basic things that you would do if you were going to go on a trip,” he said.

Increase your visibility as much as possible, so it’s important to make sure that your windshield blades are in good condition and that you have plenty of windshield fluid. In fact, check all of your fluids under the hood.

“Walk around the car with your lights on and make sure they are all working. Don’t forget to step on the brake to make sure you have brake lights,” advised Farnum.

The braking distance of a vehicle is very much affected by snow, ice and rain. Often referred to as “rolling traction,” your wheels must stay in contact with the surface for control.

Make sure to have a tire tread that is deep enough for the weather you are expecting. This will allow the car a better grip on the road.

“Snow tires obviously have an added advantage since they are made to perform in a specific weather condition,” said Farnum, “but most vehicles nowadays are either all-wheel drive or front-wheel drive, and they do very well with an all-season type of tire.”

It’s important to recognize that snow tires on front or all-wheel drive vehicles must be in sets of four. If you put them in the front of the car, you must also put them in the back. The rear is basically just being dragged around by the front, and with the added traction in front, you are driving faster than the back of the car can handle, explained Farnum.

In terms of which is safer, he said, “I think they are both about the same. The only difference between all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive is the fact that in four-wheel drive, you select when it goes in and out. In all-wheel drive, it’s pretty much automatic. The nice thing for a lot of drivers is that all-wheel drive takes affect all by itself when conditions deem it necessary.”

Also remember to take a look at the belts, ensure that the radiator is full and check the condition of the vehicle’s battery.

Just because you can drive well in the snow does not mean that your car is properly maintained for bad weather. Experts say to use good judgment and prepare yourself for the worst.

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