Winter driving can be a beautiful experience
such as after a snow storm when the landscape is covered
with fresh snow, the sky is bright blue, and the road is
clear and dry. On the other hand, a trip during a winter
storm can be a nightmare, with poor visibility caused by
blowing snow, roads nearly blocked with drifting snow or
freezing rain turning the road into a skating rink.
Making Your Vehicle Winter
During the winter your vehicle
should be in top condition because if it stalls when you are
on the road, you could become involved in a life threatening
situation. To minimize the possibility
of a break down, winterize your vehicle following the
suggested maintenance schedule included in the owners manual
or have your vehicle serviced by a reputable dealer, garage
Because winter is so rough on equipment, you should
regularly check the wipers, tires, lights, and fluid levels
(radiator, windshield washer, power steering, oil and
brakes). Make sure the brakes and transmission are working
properly. If you suspect trouble, check it out. It is better
to be safe than sorry!
Your vehicle should be equipped
with a winter emergency survival kit. The following items
- Ice scraper, snow brush, rags and
- Jumper cables, basic tool kit, antifreeze, no-freeze
windshield washer fluid and extra drive belt(s).
- Shovel, traction mats or old rugs,
tire chains, salt, cat box litter or sand.
- Blankets and extra clothing including
hats, socks, waterproof boots, coats andgloves.
- Non-perishable, high-calorie food.
- Candles, waterproof matches and a metal container
(coffee can) in which to melt snow into water.
- Flashlight with extra batteries,
flares or roadway reflectors.
- A basic first aid kit and a fire
- A cellular telephone with a backup power source might
be the single most important safety item available. A
citizen’s band radio is a good alternative.
Back to top
During a winter storm the very first question you must ask
yourself should be: “Is this trip really necessary?”
If you decide the trip cannot be delayed, check on weather
conditions along your travel route. This will give you an
idea of what to expect and you will be able to prepare
accordingly. Listen to weather forecasts on TV, local radio
stations, or NOAA Weather Radio.
Current road condition reports are available for Illinois’
interstate and freeway systems by calling 1-800-452-IDOT.
Information is updated every two hours during a storm. You
can also get this information on our home page at
and at computer monitors located at Interstate rest areas.
Tell someone at home, a friend or a co-worker that you are
taking a trip, where you are going and
when you expect to get there. When you reach your
destination make a phone call to report that you have
If your trip will be in unfamiliar area, plan to travel
during daylight hours and carry up-to-date maps of the areas
where you’ll be traveling. Consider alternate routes. Make
sure you have proper personal identification, registration
and insurance information for your vehicle.
Before you leave town, fill your gas tank. While you are
traveling, frequently re-fill the gas tank. The stops will
relieve tense muscles. When you stop, don’t flaunt large
amounts of cash. Keep valuable items out of sight. Avoid
talking with strangers. Stop at well lighted, well traveled
Back to top
Winter driving is often the most difficult due to
blowing snow, icy slick spots and fewer daylight hours. When
you are on the road:
- Buckle those seat belts! (It’s the law)
- Be prepared to turn back or seek refuge if conditions
- In RAIN, drive with your headlights on dim.
- In FOG, drive with your headlights on dim, or use
- If the fog is too dense, pull off the roadway and
stop. Do not drive at less than 10 miles per hour.
- In RAIN, FOG, SNOW or SLEET, do not overdrive your
- Stay within the limits of your vision.
- Keep your windows clear of snow and ice. Do not start
until your windshield is defrosted.
- Drive slower and increase your following distance.
Your speed should be adjusted for the conditions and
match the flow of traffic.
- Roadway conditions may vary depending on the sun,
shade or roadway surface. Watch for slick spots
especially under bridges, on overpasses and in shaded
spots. Be prepared to react physically and mentally.
- If the pavement is snow or ice covered, start slowly
and brake gently. Beginbraking early when you come to an
- If you start to slide, ease off the gas pedal or
brakes. Steer into the direction of the skid until you
feel you have regained traction then straighten your
- When you approach a snow plow from behind, pass with
care and only when you can see
the road ahead of the plow. You should not try to pass
in blowing snow. There may be a vehicle in that cloud of
snow! Allow more distance between you and the plow, they
may be spreading salt.
- Be alert when you approach a cloud of snow which
covers the road, especially on passing lanes of
interstates or freeways. Slow down and approach with
caution. A snow plow may be at work clearing the lane or
preparing to turn around.
- Be careful after a minor rear end accident. If you are
bumped from behind and you do not feel comfortable
exiting your vehicle, motion the other driver and drive
to the nearest police station, 24-hour store, service
station, hospital or fire station.
Back to top
If your vehicle breaks down, pull as far off the road as
possible. Your greatest personal danger at this point is
that of being hit by passing vehicles. Don’t panic. Common
sense could be critical to survival. Do not over exert
yourself, especially when shoveling snow or pushing a
stalled vehicle. This physical activity may be more
strenuous than your body can tolerate.
You’ll have to use your best judgment to determine whether
or not you should leave your vehicle and walk for help or
wait to be rescued. Stand outside for a few moments to
consider how cold it really is before you start to walk for
help. When the temperature is 20 degrees F and the wind is
blowing 30 miles per hour the wind chill “feels like”
temperature is -18 degrees F, that's 18 degrees BELOW zero.
You could suffer severe complications from exposure after
walking a short distance for help. Stay in your vehicle if
you are not dressed for extremely cold weather.
If you are stranded in a sparsely populated area, it may be
a while before help arrives. Stay in your vehicle, when you
feel cold, move around in the vehicle as much as possible,
clap your hands, shake your legs, and stomp your feet.
Exercise will help maintain body heat and will relieve tense
muscles. Sit close together and cover up with blankets or
extra clothing to conserve body heat. Do not permit all
occupants of the vehicle to sleep at once.
Melt snow for drinking water. If you eat snow your body will
be even colder.
If the engine will start, run it and the heater only for
short time periods. Partially open a downwind window to
prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure the exhaust
pipe is free of obstructions and the windows are not sealed
by snow or ice.
If you are stranded on a well traveled road, wait for
assistance from police or other emergency service providers.
Resist the temptation to accept assistance from a stranger.
Raise the hood, turn on the dome light and flashers to make
your vehicle more noticeable and attach a cloth to the
antenna or window indicating you need help.
Car telephone owners who see stranded motorists can do them
a favor by calling and reporting the exact location and
description of the vehicle. Mobile amateur radio operators
and CBers can help by relaying messages to base stations who
in turn will call the police.
Back to top
When you return home from a long trip, wash your vehicle to
remove dirt and road salt. A coat of wax could help protect
the finish from the effects of salt. Lubricate door and
trunk locks with lock lubricant to prevent them from
We hope these tips will help make your trip safe and
Back to top