HELENA – The Helena Police Department has responded to roughly four dozen crashes since the snowfall started Wednesday morning.

The sharp increase in fender benders has area body shops busy.

At Collision Pro Auto Body Repair, owner Barry Reddick said he’s seen a lot of crashed cars come in to get fixed. The cause: drivers braking too late and sliding into another car.

“When your braking, you don’t break like you used to years ago, where would pump the pedal, you just hold the pedal down, and that will stop you faster,” said Barry Reddick, owner of Collision Pro Autobody Repair.

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Reddick said drivers need to adjust their driving habits to prevent slide-offs and rollovers when the weather gets colder and the snow starts falling.

“I like winter months and the roads can be more challenging in the winter and it can be colder, it’s just a different style of driving than in the summertime,” said Reddick.

Jesse Vulk is the owner of Helena Body and Paint. He says even if you have a 4-wheel drive vehicle, you need to exercise caution.

“You can get up to higher speeds because you can get around better, but you have to remember you have to stop as well so it’s going to more difficult when you’re on the slippery roads with your 4-wheel drive,” said Vulk. “I just to try to be very cautious and you know, look out for others that are maybe having trouble, I’d just say, try to be cautious.”

The National Safety Council offers tips for safety on the winter roads:

•Never mix radial tires with other types of tires
•If possible, avoid using your parking brake in cold, rainy and snowy weather
•Do not use cruise control in wintery conditions
•Look and steer in the direction you want to go
•Accelerate and decelerate slowly
•Increase following distance to 8 to 10 seconds
•Know whether you have antilock brakes, which will “pump” the brakes for you in a skid
•If possible, don’t stop when going uphill
•Keep your gas tank at least half-full
•If you do get stranded, don’t try to push your vehicle out of snow
•Signal distress with a brightly colored cloth tied to the antenna or in a rolled up window

In an emergency situation, in addition to a full tank of gas and fresh antifreeze, the National Safety Council offers tips for what to have in your car at all times:

•Shovel
•Jumper cables
•Tow and tire chains
•Bag of salt or cat litter for better tire traction or to melt snow
•Toolkit
•Flashlight and extra batteries
•Reflective triangles or flares
•Compass
•First aid kit
•Windshield cleaner
•Ice scraper and snow brush
•Matches in a waterproof container
•Scissors and string or cord
•Nonperishable, high-energy foods like unsalted, canned nuts, dried fruits, and hard candy
•Blankets, mittens, socks, and hats

Winter road trips – even short ones – are a great way to celebrate with family and friends. Being prepared can ensure a safe and happy time is had by all.

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