Gear up for winter driving

It's not fun to think about driving on slick, snow-covered roads, but getting in the mindset of winter driving before the first storm hits is important. IDOT's already thinking plows, manpower and salt -- 100,000 tons of salt, which comes with a heft price tag.

"Last year we paid $35 to $45 dollars, this year we've gotten prices anywhere from $60-dollars a ton to $130-dollars a ton based on location," said Carmen Iacullo, IDOT.

"Higher price this year is probably driven more by supply and demand more than anything else," said Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Milton Sees.

The Illinois Attorney General's office has an ongoing investigation into possible price-gouging due to the high and widely varying salt prices throughout the state.

During an average winter, IDOT uses about 150,000 tons of salt in the six-county Chicago area. During last year's extreme weather, the salt use more than doubled.

Because the price of road salt is so much higher, conservation is key. IDOT will be making some adjustments in its snow fighting efforts.

"We will hold after-storm meetings to talk about what worked and didn't work and what we can do more effectively next time," said Christine Reed, IDOT director of highways.

"At night when there's not a lot of activity on the roads, we are going to cut back on the amount of salt that we use and just plow the roads, salt any icing locations and put the spinners on a lower spread rate."

The state will also use the sun, as much as possible and cut back on idling vehicles. During winter storms drivers need to adjust their habits by slowing down and increasing their following distance.

"We see people who can't stop fast enough, they think because their car is getting good traction going straight ahead, it's going to stop OK," said Commander Pete Negro, Illinois State Police, District Chicago.

State police will be strictly enforcing Scott's Law, which requires drivers to yield to emergency vehicles, including snow plows.

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