This is Anna Twiddy’s first real winter in the Midwest.
Twiddy moved to Bloomington from central North Carolina, where she grew up, in late October to take a job at Illinois State University’s Milner Library.
Twiddy is nervous about her first winter season. She plans to leave her old license plates on her car for the time being — so if you see a Toyota Corolla with North Carolina plates slowly pushing through Bloomington Normal, you might want to loosen them up a bit.
“At least that gives a good signal to people on the street to give me a wide berth if anything happens,” Twiddy said. “Most of the time I just feel sorry for other people who have to share the road with me, but I’m trying!”
It’s been a relatively benign winter in central Illinois so far — aside from the pre-Christmas freeze. Twiddy was back in North Carolina and missed it, although she got a dose of cold reality when she flew back to Central Illinois Regional Airport and headed home.
“When I got back to my car that was parked at the airport, my trunk was frozen over, which I’ve never experienced in my life,” Twiddy said. (The next morning, the trunk unexpectedly jumped open as Twiddy drove down Veterans Parkway on his way to work.)
With so many “grafts” like Twiddy moving to Bloomington Normal, WGLT wanted to gather some tips for safe winter driving. We got help from an expert: Steve Price, driving instructor at Normal Community West High School.
1. Slow down
Don’t think about it: speed is your number one enemy.
After safely weathering a couple of winter storms, Price said it’s tempting to drive like it’s sunny and clear outside.
But slow down. Take your foot off the accelerator sooner when approaching an intersection where many accidents happen.
“Usually, in ideal conditions, you use a good 3-second tracking distance. You need to increase that, knowing that if it’s raining, it’ll take you twice as long to stop. When you throw in snow and ice, there’s really no comparison,” Price said.
2. Delete your vehicle
Take the time to clean the roof, windows, headlights and taillights. Yes, it’s annoying. Yes, it is time consuming. But it helps you drive safely and is also good winter driving etiquette.
“Some people you see driving down the street look like a blizzard themselves for not clearing those windows and roofs,” said Price, who also suggests keeping your headlights on when driving in winter weather.
“Your headlights need to be on to be seen better. Especially the white, silver, or gray cars that blend into those wintry, cold Illinois days,” Price said.
Anna Twiddy is already practicing this. She’s bought a “serious” snow brush and ice scraper and is building in snow and ice clearing times on her commute.
“I’m getting better at my scratch and brush form,” Twiddy said.
3. Be careful on bridges
Bridges can be particularly slippery.
“Watch out for those bridges. Where the air flows underneath. They tend to freeze and thaw and refreeze. Salt is there, but there’s bound to be those slick spots,” Price said.
4. When you start to skid…
Let’s say you’re driving slowly but still skid while turning. What should one do?
“They should definitely turn in the direction of the skid,” Price said. “For example, if your butt swings to the right, you would turn your wheel to the right. Eventually, however, you’ll need to bring your wheel back to that starting position once the car straightens out. If not, and you keep the wheel spinning, you will start fishing.”
5. Avoid snow plows and salt trucks
If you see a snowplow or salt truck (or their lights) nearby, slow down and give them room. If you are in the right lane, switch to the left lane. It is not advisable to overtake salt or plow trucks.
“When I drive this truck, people I know come up and honk their horns and call me – ‘Hey man, I saw you drive.’ I can’t hear or pay attention to anything except what I’m doing,” said Kris Blayney, one of the Illinois Department of Transportation’s senior snow plow operators in central Illinois. “Your headlights are in a pile of snow behind me.”
6. Get ready before it snows
Fall is a good time to check your tire profiles to make sure you’re ready for winter. Price said a lot of people don’t properly maintain tires, such as B. rotations, which may affect their braking distance.
Price also recommends preparing a winter driving kit for your vehicle. Here’s what the Bloomington-based State Farm suggests you should include in the kit:
- Small folding shovel
- Tow and tire chains
- Basic Toolbox
- Bag of road salt or cat litter
- Torches, battery operated flashlights and extra batteries
- Bright cloth to tie to your car
- Extra washer fluid and antifreeze
- Jumper cables or an external battery charger to start your car when your battery is dead.
7. The internet is your friend
The Illinois Department of Transportation’s online winter map is a great way to check if highways are clear or partially, mostly, or completely covered in ice or snow.
The City of Bloomington also offers an interactive map to help you track snow removal operations in your neighborhood and across the city. You can report issues through the myBloomington app (iOS or Android).
The town of Normal does not have a Snowplow map. But you can report snow or ice problems online.
8. What is a collision alert?
When winter weather sets in, Bloomington and Normal police departments often issue what is known as a “traffic collision alert.”
During the alert, all motorists involved in a traffic accident – where there were no injuries and all vehicles are drivable – should exchange names, addresses, phone numbers and insurance information. Drivers must collectively and personally report the accident to the police station within 3 to 5 days (depending on the station).
9. What is a snow route?
During heavy snowfall, the City of Bloomington and City of Normal often enact a “snow route parking ban” or “snow parking ban.”
In Normal, a no-parking means no parked cars are allowed on any street in the city of Normal. Cars must be moved off the street into a driveway, garage or parking lot. The goal is to allow the snowplow crews to clear the entire street, including the parking lots.
Bloomington prohibits parking along marked snow routes, although those living in areas not designated as snow routes are still encouraged to park off-street.
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