Disaster Resources - University of Illinois Extension

Winter Vehicle Operation

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 your seat belts!
  • Be prepared to turn back and seek shelter if conditions become threatening.
  • In fog, drive with your headlights set on dim, or use foglights. If the fog is too dense, pull off the roadway and stop. Do not drive at five or ten miles per hour.
  • In rain, fog, snow, or sleet, do not overdrive your headlights. 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. Begin braking early when you come to an intersection. 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 vehicle.
  • When a snow plow is coming towards you, allow plenty of room for the plow to pass. When the center line is being cleared and salted the plow tip may be on or over the line. Snow plows are big, heavy pieces of equipment. So play it safe, give them room to pass.
  • 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. 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.
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