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Recent accidents reminder of winter driving woes

A major accident yesterday morning and several others in recent days proved that despite the mild winter, area drivers still have to contend with tricky driving conditions from time to time.
A multiple-vehicle accident happened on State Route 220 near Bell Hollow Road in Taylor Township, Centre County shortly before 8 a.m. yesterday.
State police said a car driven by 29-year-old Scott W. Lockard of Altoona and a vehicle driven by 31-year-old Frank Pulcinello of Tyrone were traveling north on Route 220. Lockard’s car was in front of Pulcinello’s while two other vehicles, a tractor-trailer and a pickup truck, were southbound.
Northbound traffic began to slow down when another vehicle was preparing to make a left turn.
Lockard’s car was unable to stop because of icy road conditions and slid into oncoming traffic where his vehicle collided head-on with the tractor-trailer driven by 54-year-old Edwin B. Rector of Lisbon, OH.
After the collision, the tractor-trailer crossed the road and went into the northbound lane and struck the left side of a car driven by 31-year-old Frank A. Pulcinello.
The tractor-trailer struck a guiderail where it came to rest blocking both lanes of traffic. The pick-up truck driver, 43-year-old David J. Gehret of Altoona, noticed Lockard’s car spinning after the collision with the tractor-trailer. Gehret veered off of the road into a yard where his vehicle collided with a large piece of concrete.
A passenger in Pulcinello’s car, 28-year-old Rebekah S. Pulcinello, suffered a severe injury. A 9-month-old baby was also in the vehicle. Police said “the jaws of life” were used to extricate the three people in Pulcinello’s vehicle. Pulcinello had moderate injuries while the baby sustained minor injuries. The adult occupants were wearing seat belts while the baby was in a child seat.
Police said all three were taken to Altoona Regional Medical Center either by ambulance or helicopter.
Lockard had a minor injury and was not wearing a seat belt. Rector was wearing a seat belt and was not injured. Gehret was also belted and escaped injury.
Lockard’s car, the tractor-trailer and Pulcinello’s vehicle all had severe damage while Gehret’s pick-up truck had moderate damage.
Port Matilda EMS/Volunteer Fire Company, Altoona EMS and Mount Nittany EMS assisted Philipsburg-based state police.
The road was closed for about two hours.
With the latest bout of poor driving conditions, PennDOT is advising motorists about how quickly problems can develop during the winter months.
“Snow squalls present a major challenge to motorists and PennDOT crews, since they usually strike with little or no warning,” said Tom Prestash, PennDOT’s District 9 executive.
A press release from PennDOT noted squalls could quickly cause roads to become snow covered. The transportation agency said they dispatch crews as soon as there are reports in an area, but since there is usually no warning, it is impossible for PennDOT to use anti-icing material or other preemptive measures.
PennDOT said in addition to snow-covered roads, heavy squalls could also cause whiteout conditions virtually eliminating a driver’s visibility.
PennDOT is offering the following advice if a driver encounters a snow squall:
• Slow down gradually and drive at a speed that suits the conditions;
• Turn on your headlights;
• Stay in your lane;
• Increase your following distance;
• Stay alert, keep looking as far ahead as possible and be patient;
• Reduce in-car distractions since your full attention is required;
• Use defroster and wipers;
• Keep windows and mirrors free of snow and ice;
• During whiteouts, come to a complete stop only when you can safely get as far off the road as possible or when there is a safe area to do so;
• Do not stop in the flow of traffic since this could create a chain-reaction collision;
• Do not pass a vehicle moving slowly or speed up to get away from a vehicle that is following too closely and
• Always buckle up and never drink and drive.