Winter Driving Tips
Arctic temperatures, slick streets, blinding precipitation and increased travel during the winter season are key accident contributors. There are specific precautions drivers should take before striking out this winter.
There are three major factors to consider when taking on road handling in inclement weather. First, you need to feel the road, see the road and be seen on the road in an emergency
Number 1: Feel the Road
When it comes to roadside handling, you need to review the best ways to increase your traction:
First, consider all season road tires vs. winter tires:
- More tires are on the market are really winter tires not snow tires because they are designed to handle high water, ice and snow driving.
- All-season tires work, but for the best traction in ice and snow, a winter tire is recommended because of better tread design for snow and ice
- It's important to note that with winter tires, you will need to change back to normal road tires in the spring.
Number 2: See the Road:
Before taking to the road, you should review your Winter Visibility Checklist including:
- Windshield Washer Fluid: Make sure you have a winter fluid in your reservoir with Freeze protection to at least -25 F.
- Windshield De-icer: De-icers can melt snow and reduce refreeze. Ice Scraper, etc
- Check your heating-defrosting system to make sure there is no blockages
Number 3: Be Seen on the Road and the Roadside
Especially in a breakdown lane or in need of any roadside assistance, the key is to be seen. Your emergency kit should include the following:
- Colorful (bright orange) sweatshirt to wear while on the road
- Road Flares
- Food and Water: Keep energy bars and spring water in the car
It's also important to check oil, cooling systems and belts. Cold weather can cause the fan belt to break and leave the driver stranded.
Proper tire inflation and keeping your gas tank at least half full are also good preventive measures.
One thing to always remember -- when driving in winter weather, expect the unexpected.
"Drive defensively, keep a safe distance from the car in front of you, reduce your speed, make sure you have good visibility," said John Mitchell, IDOT emergency patrol manager.
IDOT says one of the biggest challenges when a storm hits during rush hour is to convince drivers they're simply not going to get home in the same amount of time. Then there's the added complication of the salt trucks and snowplows.
If you absolutely must pass, don't pass in the direction they are plowing. Even when trucks are not present, it's much safer to stay in one lane when you're driving through a snowstorm.
"If you do break down during the storm, or any time for that matter, stay in your vehicle, if you have a cell phone dial *999, that will get you an operator, they'll ask your location, what the problem is and send you some help," said Mitchell.
It doesn't take a lot of snow to create huge problems on the expressways, but when a major storm hits, driving attitudes have to change.
"You want to use public transportation if you have to go someplace, if you really don't have to drive, we advise people not to drive in these kind of conditions," said Mitchell.
Of course, many folks don't have a choice, and that's when driver precautions are a must:
- Slow down, increase your following distance; you won't be able to stop as quickly when roads are snow covered and slick.
- Make sure you have good visibility, keeping your windshields clear of snow and ice.
- Don't change lanes, unless you absolutely have to.
- Take special precaution of bridges and ramps; they ice up quickly.
- Be extra careful around snow plows and salt trucks. During a major storm, IDOT will have over 300 snow removal vehicles on the expressways and they need to have the right of way.
- If winds kick up during or after the snowstorm, that presents another problem.
"Blowing and drifting can be very dangerous. High winds tend to take some of the snow, we plow away and it can be blown back on the expressways," Mitchell said.
IDOT advises if you see trucks plowing in groups, do not cut in front of them. If you run into trouble during a storm, the IDOT minutemen will be out in full force, assisting with car crashes and other traffic incidents.
Another good bit of advice -- keep a full tank of gas; the last thing you want is to run out in the middle of a storm.