Preparing for winter road driving

PRINCETON — With the winter and holiday season here, local and state officials are encouraging drivers to slow down, be alert and drive carefully.

On Wednesday, Bureau County Sheriff John Thompson said there are several winter driving tips which drivers need to remember when traveling on the roads in the coming months. Some of those tips include making sure the vehicle is in good service condition and the gas tank is near full, not using the cruise control or overdrive on icy roads, and being especially careful on bridges and overpasses.

Also, drivers need to remember all-wheel drive not mean all weather is driveable, Thompson said.

“If you call the sheriff’s department for advice on road conditions (during winter storms), you will be told that travel is not recommended. Then you and your family must decide if the trip can be delayed,” Thompson said. “You will always prefer to be inside the safely of your home wishing you were traveling, rather than stranded without help or support and wishing you were inside your cozy home.”

The Illinois State Police, the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Illinois Tollway have launched the “Ice and Snow-Take it Slow” campaign in preparation for winter driving conditions.

Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider said IDOT will continue to collaborate with law enforcement and transportation partners to make sure state roads are fully prepared for the upcoming winter season. IDOT is equipped with sufficient snow removal supplies and staff, and will always make state roadways as clear and safe as possible, she said.

“We strongly encourage all motorists to be ready for harsh weather conditions this year and to continue to drive defensively, slow down, never drive while distracted or impaired, and always buckle up,” Schneider said.

During the 2012-13 winter season, more than 3,680 employees and 1,730 pieces of equipment will be available for deployment by IDOT to keep state routes clear and passable, Schneider said.

The Illinois Tollway has readied 182 plow trucks and other equipment to combat snow and ice storms this winter across the 286-mile tollway system in Northern Illinois. The tollway also has 84,000 tons of salt on hand along with other supplies such as liquid calcium chloride and roadway abrasives, to keep roadways clear for its 1.4 million daily drivers.

From the Illinois State Police perspective, ISP director Hiram Grau said motorists face weather conditions each year which can have a devastating impact on driving conditions and passenger safety.

“Whether it’s a semi-truck or a motor vehicle, motorists should drive with extra caution to ensure that accidents are avoided and roads are safe,” Grau said. “Reducing your speed, allowing for extra travel time, increasing distances between vehicles, and avoiding unnecessary lane changes are just a few simple precautions drivers can take to make commutes safer.”

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Winter driving tips

• Have your vehicle serviced before the snow flies to insure your equipment is in good serviceable condition.
• Keep your gas tank (near) full.
• Keep a window scraper and brush in your vehicle. In addition to cleaning your windshield, brush all snow off your headlights, taillights and windows.
• Always schedule extra travel time during snowy or icy conditions.
• Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other motorists.
• Install new windshield wipers in the fall.
• Keep your lights and windshield clean.
• Don't use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.
• Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses which freeze before roads.
• Keep a fully charged cellular telephone available for emergencies, but don't use the phone while driving.
• Inform family or friends of your destination.
• If stuck or stranded while traveling, never leave your vehicle. It serves as a great shelter with the ability to retain heat and will be more easily seen.
• Road flares are a good consideration, but only last 30-45 minutes after ignited and should never be used while in your vehicle.
• Keep a winter safety kit in your vehicle. In addition to the winter coat your wear, keep an extra winter coat and possibly additional clothing in your vehicle. If you travel with your spouse, keep one for each of you. Also, keep blanket(s), a flashlight and fresh batteries (annually), a first aid kit, and food such as protein bars, in the car.
• Additional items for a winter safety kit include a pocket or kitchen knife and a metal can, like a coffee can with a snap-on lid, and matches, which can serve as a safe source of heat while in a stranded vehicle.
(Information provided by Bureau County Sheriff John Thompson)

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