Winter driving tips to stay safe this season

CHICAGO – Say it’s not snow!

The first measurable snowfall of the season awaits Chicagoland on Tuesday, which could leave one to two inches when all is said and done.

It’s an early blast of winter that residents don’t usually see at this time of year. Before the “fun” begins, here are some tips for safe driving.

Check the conditions

First of all, the obvious – plan plenty of time and check the conditions on your route, because winter weather is unpredictable and so are the roads.

IDOT encourages drivers to check before leaving home for up-to-date information on winter road conditions, road and bridge closures, and other traffic-related information.

If you can avoid going outside in bad weather great, but if not we encourage you to use public transport if you can. Either way, we recommend letting someone know your route and estimated time of arrival.


When driving on snow and ice, experts recommend accelerating gradually by gently pressing the accelerator pedal so as not to lose traction.


Applying the brakes in winter conditions will cause drivers to skid in winter conditions, and as with accelerating, drivers are advised to slow down gradually and apply the brakes lightly.

This means leaving more space between cars for braking, around 6-10 seconds instead of the usual 3-4 seconds.

Acceleration and braking aren’t the only things drivers have to worry about, steering is also the most important thing.


Oversteer occurs when you turn too fast on snow or ice and the weight of the vehicle is transferred to the front tires, causing the rear of the vehicle to skid in the opposite direction of the turn.

If this happens, do not apply the brakes. Instead, gently accelerate and steer in the direction of the skid until you regain control of the vehicle.


Understeer occurs when tires lose traction and skid in their own direction.

Don’t hit the brakes or steer harder as it won’t have any effect. Instead, it is recommended to take your foot off the accelerator and slowly straighten the wheel until the front tires regain traction.

Safety Tips

IDOT’s “Winter Weather – Get it Together” campaign also encourages travelers to follow these simple safety rules and tips:

  • Always fasten your seat belts
  • Do not use handheld devices.
  • Refuel your vehicle or plug in an electric/hybrid vehicle
  • Drive slower, accelerate slower, steer slower and brake slower when driving in winter conditions
  • Do not use cruise control on snow and ice
  • Use caution when approaching intersections, ramps, bridges and shady areas that are prone to icing
  • Don’t crowd snow plows. They drive slowly, make frequent stops, cross lanes, make wide turns, and often swerve off the road
  • Slow down and move over for stopped emergency, maintenance and construction vehicles
  • Watch out for black ice that may appear transparent on the roads
  • Have your emergency kit ready and include: jumper cables, headlights or flares, washer fluid, small ice scraper, small shovel, blankets, traction material, first aid kit, bottled water and non-perishable food
  • Carry a mobile phone and keep a car charger handy in case of emergency

The campaign also encourages travelers to have their car serviced for the winter. They suggest making adjustments, checking tires, fluids, hoses, and doing 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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