SPRINGFIELD - Illinois transportation and law enforcement officials today urged motorists to start preparing themselves and their vehicles for winter driving conditions. Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and Illinois Tollway crews and Illinois State Police (ISP) are making final preparations to get the state’s frontline winter teams and equipment ready for emergency operations for the upcoming snow and ice season.
“IDOT has a proven track record of effective, timely snow and ice removals from our roadways and this year will be no different,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig. “Winter weather will be here soon enough, so it’s important for motorists to get ready now because Illinois weather can become dangerous in a matter of minutes. We want to assure every Illinois driver that safety is our first priority.”
IDOT also stressed the department’s commitment to the continued use of salt conservation practices even with prices of the commodity coming down from last year.
Snowbelt states have experienced two harsh winters in a row and most states, including Illinois, have used more than twice the average annual tonnage of salt in both winters.
During the 2009-2010 winter season, more than 3,900 employees and 1900 pieces of equipment will be deployed as needed by IDOT to keep state routes clear and passable. Last year, the agency spent $82.3 million on snow removal, spreading 488,300 tons of salt and logging 836,000 labor hours.
For years, ISP and IDOT have worked together to urge motorists to drive defensively in winter weather.
"The winter season can produce rapidly changing weather patterns and unfavorable conditions. Snow and ice covered roads can significantly impede the flow of traffic, increase traffic congestion, and create adverse driving conditions. If motorists must drive in these conditions, they should plan ahead and allow sufficient time for travel," said ISP Director Jonathon E. Monken. "The Illinois State Police reminds motorists to travel at safe speeds, maintain a safe distance from other vehicles, and use properly fastened seatbelts or child safety seats. In addition to driving safely, motorists should ensure their vehicles are properly maintained, and be prepared with updated supplies in their emergency car care kit in the event a vehicle becomes disabled."
Director Monken also reminded motorists that Troopers will be enforcing Scott's Law, or the “Move Over Law,” which requires drivers to yield to moving emergency vehicles, including highway maintenance vehicles, displaying oscillating, rotating, or flashing lights. Additionally, a driver is required to change lanes, if safe to do so, or reduce speed and proceed with caution when approaching a stationary emergency vehicle displaying flashing warning lights.
On the Illinois Tollway, 194 plow trucks and 27 front loaders are ready to combat snow and ice storms this winter across the 286-mile Tollway System. The Tollway has a supply of about 82,200 tons of salt, 46,200 gallons of liquid calcium chloride and 7,800 tons of angular crushed stone. Stockpiled salt supplies are well in excess of the average amount used over a single winter season. Average annual salt usage per year over the last 10 years is about 67,300 tons.
"As the Illinois Tollway completes roadway rebuilding and widening projects spanning more than 120 miles across Northern Illinois, drivers will find congestion relief and fewer potholes this winter,” said Illinois Tollway Acting Executive Director Michael King. "But we still encourage drivers to slow down for winter conditions and watch out for snow plows working to clear the way and other drivers who may not be taking necessary precautions."
Other safety tips include:
• Plan ahead and make sure before you head out: is your trip necessary?
• Don’t crowd the plow - remember, a snowplow operator’s field of vision is restricted. You may see them, but they may not see you.
• Watch out for black ice - roads that appear clear may be treacherous. Take it slow when approaching intersections, off-ramps, bridges, and shady areas - all are prone to black ice.
• Always keep your gas tank at least two-thirds full to prevent the vehicle’s fuel line from freezing.
• Dress warmly for the weather - dress in layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing in anticipation of unexpected winter weather emergencies.
• Do not travel unless absolutely necessary - if you do have to make a trip, check the forecast and plan ahead with safety in mind.
• Make sure someone is aware of your travel route.
• Always carry an emergency car care kit that contains jumper cables, flares or reflectors, windshield washer fluid a small ice scraper, traction material, blankets, non-perishable food and a first aid kit.
• Carry a cell phone.
• Always wear a safety belt.
Motorists are urged to check travel conditions before any trip. You may get interstate condition information by calling 1-800-452-IDOT (4368) or on the internet at www.gettingaroundillinois.com.