Saturday, Nov. 15


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[NOV. 15, 2003]  SPRINGFIELD -- Winter is quickly approaching, and the Department of Transportation's focus is shifting from repairing roads and bridges and mowing roadsides to controlling snow and ice to keep highways open and safe for travel.

That means snowplows will soon be a common sight on highways, and the department is encouraging motorists to pay special attention and use extra caution when approaching a snowplow.

During the 2002-2003 winter season there were 35 accidents with state snowplows. Most of the plows were hit from behind by approaching motorists. Other crashes occurred when drivers tried to pass a snowplow and hit the blade.

Snowplows are big, heavy pieces of equipment that can weigh up to 20 tons -- that's 40,000 pounds -- when fully loaded with de-icing salt. The blades that remove the snow and ice from the highways are 12 feet wide, which is as wide or wider than some highway lanes. These snowplows are usually traveling about 30 miles per hour when plowing, which means a driver can close in on them pretty quickly.

Play it safe and give them plenty of room.

More than 3,500 employees and 1,570 pieces of equipment are involved in snow removal and ice control on 42,255 lane-miles of state highways. During the 2002-2003 snow and ice season approximately 488,750 tons of de-icing salt was used and nearly 563,800 man-hours were spent clearing roads of snow and ice.

As IDOT road crews prepare equipment for the winter season, likewise motorists should prepare their cars for winter. Equip your vehicle with a winter emergency survival kit. Recommended items include ice scraper and snow brush, jumper cables, basic tool kit, shovel, traction mats or old rugs, blankets and extra clothing, candle, matches, an empty coffee can to melt snow for drinking water, flashlight with extra batteries, and a basic first-aid kit. A cellular telephone with an independent battery source might be the single most important safety item to carry.


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During a winter storm the first question you should ask yourself is, "Is this trip really necessary?" If the trip can't be delayed, check out the weather and the interstate highway conditions with the Department of Transportation.

Travelers can visit for interstate road conditions. Reports are updated every two hours. The same information is available through the department's website,, and toll-free line, 1 (800) 452-IDOT (4368).

Illinois is more than 400 miles long and 200 miles wide. It is very likely during the winter season that driving conditions will vary from one area of the state to another. It's important that you be prepared for inclement weather and winter driving whenever you begin a trip.

Roadway conditions may vary depending on the sun, shade or roadway surface. Watch for slick sports under bridges, on overpasses and in shaded areas. Drive slower and increase your following distances.

When you approach a snowplow, give it plenty of room. If a snowplow is coming toward you, give it room to pass because the plow blade may over the center line of the highway. When you approach a snowplow from the rear, remember to slow down and approach with caution.

Don't pass a snowplow unless you can clearly see the road ahead. Blowing snow from the plow or the wind could hide a car approaching from the other direction or a snowdrift across the highway.

Caution is the byword during the winter months. With a little preparation, pre-trip planning and cautious driving, you can safely arrive at your destination.

[Illinois Department of Transportation news release]

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