Driving in Winter

car in snowy roadSlippery roads, deep snow and freezing temperatures make even short trips challenging for drivers in winter. These adverse weather conditions can become truly life threatening if you're traveling outside of areas where you can quickly find help and shelter.

When conditions include ice, heavy snow, or sub-zero temperatures, try to make other travel arrangements. If you must journey out, let someone know your destination, route taken, and when you expect to arrive or return. Be prepared to turn back or seek refuge if conditions become threatening. When you do arrive at your destination, let someone know of your arrival.

Check on weather conditions along your route and listen to weather forecasts. Road conditions are available for Illinois interstate highways.

When you're on the road, be sure to use your seat beat and put small children in approved safety seats in the back seat of your automobile. Keep your windows clear of ice and snow.

Equip Your Vehicle

Equip your vehicle with an emergency survival kit. Some of the recommended items are:

  1. Ice scrapper with a snowbrush.
  2. Jumper cables.
  3. Basic tool kit.
  4. A couple of cans of tire inflation or patch foam.
  5. Shovel.
  6. Traction mats or old rugs, sand, or kitty litter.
  7. Blankets, extra clothing and gloves.
  8. Candles and flashlight with extra batteries.
  9. Waterproof matches and an empty coffee can to melt snow for drinking water.
  10. Take along some snacks.
  11. Basic first aid kit.
  12. A cellular telephone or a citizens band radio with a backup power source other than the car's battery.

Slow Down

The safest way to slow down or stop on ice and snow is to begin slowing down well before your stopping point to avoid skidding. Ease off the accelerator and gradually apply the brakes firmly until just before they lock. Ease off the brake pedal until you feel the wheels rolling easily and apply the brakes again.

Watch for slick spots especially under bridges, on overpasses, and in shaded areas. Drive slower and increase your following distance from the cars ahead of you. Adjust your speed for the conditions and match the flow of traffic, if possible.

If you begin to skid, take your foot off the brakes and steer your vehicle in the direction you want to go until the tires regain traction.

Do not pump the brakes if your vehicle is equipped with ABS, or anti-lock braking system, as this action reduces the effectiveness of the brakes and may cause them to lock up, resulting in steering loss. With ABS, apply the brakes fully and maintaining the pressure. This activates the anti-lock braking system. You will feel the brake pedal pulse against your foot. The system will activate the brakes faster and more safely than you can, thus slowing the vehicle and maintaining steering control.

If you have a four-wheel drive vehicle, don't think it will get you through all conditions. These vehicles have good traction in snow, but won't make a difference if you're stuck in deep snow drifts. And they don't stop any quicker than other vehicles on slick pavements.

If You Become Stranded

snow on a carIf you become stranded in a winter storm:

  1. Turn on your vehicle hazard lights.
  2. Put something bright, like a bandanna on top of your antenna so you can be seen.
  3. Lock the doors and remain in your vehicle until help arrives.
  4. To stay warm, run the engine, but run the engine only for short periods to save gas. Check to make sure that snow, dirt, or ice is not clogging the exhaust system.
  5. Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning by keeping a window slightly open while the engine is running.

Keep the gas tank full. If you own one, carry a cellular phone with you for emergencies. Many Illinois road maps have the phone numbers for State Police district headquarters.

Don't accept a ride from strangers. Criminals are predators who will take advantage of your helplessness. Don't gamble. Ask your Good Samaritan to report your location at the nearest service station or police headquarters.

Be sure to plan, be careful, drive safely. Those words should help keep you safe this winter.

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