Winter weather driving tips to stay safe this season
CHICAGO – Say it isn’t snow!
Chicagoland faces its first measurable snowfall of the season on Tuesday that could leave one to two inches when it’s all said and done.
This is an early blast of winter that residents normally don’t see this time of year. Before the “fun” begins, check out some tips to drive safe.
First, the obvious — plan to give yourself plenty of time and check conditions along your route because winter weather is unpredictable and so are the roads.
IDOT encourages drivers to check GettingAroundIllinois.com for updates on winter road conditions, road and bridge closures and other traffic-related information before leaving the house.
If you can avoid going out in the bad weather, great, but if not, you’re encouraged to use public transportation if you can. Either way, you’re advised to let someone know your route and when you’re expected to arrive at your destination.
When driving in snow and ice, experts advise you gradually accelerate by applying gentle pressure on the gas pedal so you don’t lose traction.
Slamming on the brakes in winter weather will cause drivers to skid in wintry weather, and, as with accelerating, drivers are advised to gradually slow down and apply gentle pressure to the brake pedal.
This means leaving more space between cars for breaking, around 6-10 seconds instead of the usual 3-4 seconds.
Accelerating and braking aren’t the only things drivers need to worry about, steering should also be top of mind.
Oversteering happens when you’re turning too fast on snow or ice and the weight of your vehicle shifts to the front tires causing the rear of the vehicle to skid in the opposite direction you were turning.
If this happens, don’t slam on your brakes. Instead, gently accelerate and steer in the direction of the skid until you once again have control of the vehicle.
Understeering occurs when your tires lose traction and skid in its own direction.
Don’t slam on your brakes or steer harder because it won’t have any effect on it. Instead, you’re advised to take your foot off the gas and slowly straighten the wheel until the front tires regain traction.
IDOT’s “Winter Weather – Get it Together” campaign also encourages travelers to follow these simple safety rules and tips:
- Always wear a seatbelt
- Do not use handheld devices.
- Gas up your vehicle or plug in your electric/hybrid vehicle
- Drive slower, accelerate slower, steer slower and brake slower when driving in wintery conditions
- Don’t use cruise control in snow and ice
- Use caution approaching intersections, ramps, bridges and shady areas which are all prone to icing
- Don’t crowd snowplows. They travel slowly, stop often, overlap lanes, make wide turns and exit the road often
- Slow down and move over for stopped emergency, maintenance and construction vehicles
- Watch for black ice which can appear clear on roads
- Prepare an emergency kit and include the following: jumper cables, reflectors or flares, windshield washer fluid, small ice scraper, small shovel, blankets, traction material, a first-aid kit, bottled water, and non-perishable food
- Carry a cell phone and have a car charger handy in case of an emergency
The campaign also encourages travelers to get their car serviced for the winter. They suggest getting a tune-up, checking your tires, fluids, hoses and performing any other routine maintenance.
You can also visit the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s winter driving website for car maintenance suggestions.
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