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Time to prepare to drive in winter’s worst

A snow plow passes through the Maplebrook II neighborhood south of 75th St. in Naperville as snow falls Tuesday, January 11, 2011. | Danielle Gardner~Sun-Times Media
A car navigates a snowy Plainfield/Naperville Rd. in Naperville as snow starts to fall Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times
Naperville city employees move into position to spread salt on Jackson Ave. as snow starts to fall Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times
A compact SUV is escorted by three IDOT snowplows as it travels westbound on Ogden Avenue at Iroquois in Naperville on Friday afternoon. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media
Traffic crawls along 75th Street in Naperville on Friday, Jan. 20, 2012, as deteriorating road conditions and poor visibility from a snow storm make travel hazardous. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media

Facts

Winter driving tips Here are some tips to make driving in the winter a little safer: Don’t crowd the plow – a snow plow operator’s field of vision is restricted. You may see them, but they may not see you. Allow extra time for travel during the winter months. Watch out for black ice on roads that appear clear but can be treacherous. Take it slow when approaching intersections; off-ramps, bridges and shady areas all are prone to black ice, which is often invisible. Always keep your gas tank at least two-thirds full to help prevent the vehicle’s fuel line from freezing. Do not travel during bad weather unless absolutely necessary. If you do have to make a trip, check the forecast and 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 and dial *999 for roadway assistance. Always wear a safety belt. Source: Illinois Department of Transportation

Set on the western edge of the Continental Divide in Steamboat Springs, Colo., the Bridgestone Winter Driving School is entering its 30th year in operation.

Frequently featured on national news programs, this winter driving safety program trains the gamut of motorists, from new license holders all the way to professional race car drivers, to deal with treacherous winter conditions.

Most of us can’t afford to jet off to Steamboat and add our names to the list of more than 80,000 motorists who have paid a pretty hefty price tag to learn how to navigate their vehicle in winter weather. However, here in the flatlands of Illinois, we still need to prepare for winter driving.

While different than the mountainous Rocky Mountain region, “Illinois gets plenty of snow and can be brutally cold in the winter time,” Kurt Spitzner, operations manager and instructor with Bridgestone Winter Driving School, said.

“Preparing your vehicle and preparing yourself for the task of winter driving is what is important,” he said. “In terms of vehicle preparation, one of the worst things you can do is get caught without enough washer fluid.”

In addition, he said that all-season tires are a compromise.

“Motorists are limiting how well they can get around,” Spitzner said. “All-season tires typically are made of rubber that hardens as temperatures drop.

“Tire technology has advanced over the last 15 years, creating a modern winter tire that is made of rubber that remains soft and pliable even in very cold temperatures, allowing the tire to grip better,” he said.

After a spectacular early autumn filled with sunny, warm days, Mother Nature wielded her power and has flung some colder temperatures and a few snowflakes our way.

Illinois State Police Director Hiram Grau noted that, “every year, motorists face weather conditions that can have a devastating impact on driving conditions and passenger safety. Whether it’s a semi-truck or a motor vehicle, motorists should drive with extra caution to ensure that accidents are avoided and roads are safe.

“Reducing your speed, allowing for extra travel time, increasing distances between vehicles, and avoiding unnecessary lane changes are just a few simple precautions drivers can take to make commutes safer,” he said.

The city of Naperville salt domes are fully stocked and ready to use, Allison M. Albrecht, communications specialist with the City Manager’s Office, said.

“The city’s leaf collection program is just about complete and our fleets of trucks used for leaf collection are in the process of being switched over to accommodate plows and salt spreaders for our regular winter operations,” she said.

In addition to preparing to drive in hazardous weather, motorists need to prepare to drive with more vehicles and pedestrians on the road and in shopping mall parking lots.

While it should be the “season to be jolly,” often times it is not. Frazzled, competitive shoppers determined to meet their holiday shopping objectives seem to forget to be courteous to other drivers and pedestrians (i.e., fellow human beings) along the way.

“More than 90 percent of all crashes involve poor driver decisions (inattention, aggression, etc.),” according to Gail Weinholzer, AAA’s director of Public Affairs. “To keep this a safe and happy holiday, drivers are encouraged to remember only they can control their own behavior. Doing so, keeps themselves, their vehicle occupants, and their fellow road users safe.”

“The number of pedestrians being hit by cars in parking lots greatly increases during the holidays,” according to Julie Smith, a crime prevention specialist with the Naperville Police Department.

“In a shopping center parking lot, drivers should expect random pedestrians, inattentive drivers, rolling shopping carts, and other hidden hazards,” she said.

Smith suggested that both motorists and pedestrians need to utilize proper care.

“Pedestrians automatically don’t have the right of way in all situations, and are often found at fault for creating a hazard that caused a collision through their own actions,” she said.

Also, one set of commuters got an early Christmas present this year. Despite a Pace Moving Forward newsletter stating otherwise, the discounted Naperville 10 Ride bus passes (11 rides for $14) will continue to be sold at the Route 59 and Naperville Metra stations until a replacement is determined.

So shall we, “sing we joyous, all together fa la la la la, la la la la.”

Read More Local Voices

Facts

Winter driving tips Here are some tips to make driving in the winter a little safer: Don’t crowd the plow – a snow plow operator’s field of vision is restricted. You may see them, but they may not see you. Allow extra time for travel during the winter months. Watch out for black ice on roads that appear clear but can be treacherous. Take it slow when approaching intersections; off-ramps, bridges and shady areas all are prone to black ice, which is often invisible. Always keep your gas tank at least two-thirds full to help prevent the vehicle’s fuel line from freezing. Do not travel during bad weather unless absolutely necessary. If you do have to make a trip, check the forecast and 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 and dial *999 for roadway assistance. Always wear a safety belt. Source: Illinois Department of Transportation
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