BENNINGTON >> Winter in New England brings frigid cold, snow and ice, and state agencies and other groups are offering tips to prepare for driving.
But before you clear snow and ice from your car roof, hood windows and trunk, ask yourself if you really need to leave home in the first place.
"If you don't have to venture out, then avoid travel until after the roads have been treated," Pat Moody, manager of public affairs for AAA Northern New England, said in a recent press release. "Motorists should allow extra time to get to their destination, increase their following distance and slow down. If it is not safe to travel and you don't need to venture out, don't drive. Wait until road conditions improve."
According to AAA, the motor club's New England branch assisted 175,000 members in 2014, and many incidents could have been avoided if drivers better prepared for weather conditions and modified their driving behavior.
To prevent roadside breakdowns, AAA recommends to keep up with car repairs. The motor club says its own research found more than a third of Americans delay vehicle service or repairs. The majority of AAA roadside assistance calls were due to battery related issues, flat tires and keys locked inside the vehicle.
AAA and the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) say drivers should winterize their vehicles, pack "winter kits" for emergencies and adjust driving for road conditions.
Tips to winterize your ride include: Making sure functions like the car's battery, charging system, heaters and defrosters are working properly; installing winter windshield wipers and topping off washer fluid; and switching to winter tires.
VTrans and AAA recommend people keep emergency items in their vehicle, including: Jumper cables, blankets, matches, candles, a snow shovel, snow scraper, extra washer fluid and antifreeze, extra clothes and even non-perishable snacks.
The state adopted a "safe roads at safe speeds" policy, compared to a "bare road" policy, in 1981. VTrans encourages drivers to change their driving behavior according to road and weather conditions.
VTrans recommends drivers leave at least three car lengths between the next vehicle to provide enough room to slow down.
Drivers should also give plow trucks plenty of distance.
"Do not pass a snowplow when visibility is severely reduced," VTrans states on its website. "When you do pass, be sure you can see
clearly ahead and allow plenty of room. Be aware that a snowplow driver's vision is restricted; you may see the driver but the driver may not necessarily see you."
Snow plow and other truck drivers can only see vehicles behind them if they can be seen in their rear-view mirrors, VTrans states — so if motorists can't see a trucks mirrors, they truck driver can't see them.
The state's travel information system is available by calling 511 and provides up-to-date information on road conditions, traffic, crashes and construction.
The 511VT website also has a live map of conditions as well as links to road weather cameras and other information: http://vtransmaps.vermont.gov/VTrans511/511live.htm