Illinois transportation and law enforcement officials today joined forces to launch the “Ice and Snow - Take it Slow” winter campaign. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), Illinois Tollway and the Illinois State Police (ISP) are partnering to roll out the state’s frontline winter road crews and ensure that snow plows and other emergency equipment are ready for the upcoming snow and ice season.

The traffic safety advocates also took the opportunity to remind motorists of two safety laws Governor Pat Quinn signed into law earlier this year. Both aimed at reducing the number of distracted driving crashes are set to take effect January 1, 2014. One law prohibits the use of all hand-held mobile phones while driving anywhere in Illinois, and the second increases penalties when any use of an electronic device while driving is the cause of an accident.

“IDOT is fully prepared to tackle this year’s winter weather, and we always want to encourage the public to slow down, wear seatbelts in every seating position, and eliminate all distractions, especially in unfavorable winter driving conditions,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann L. Schneider. “IDOT has ensured that we have sufficient snow removal supplies and staff during these crucial months. We are committed to making sure our state roadways are as clear and safe as possible.”

During the 2013-14 winter season, 1,860 trucks statewide will be available for deployment by IDOT crews to keep about 16,000 miles of state routes clear and passable. Last year, IDOT spent $64.7 million on snow removal and spread 460,000 tons of salt statewide. For many years, ISP, Tollway and IDOT have worked together to urge motorists to drive defensively and safely in winter weather.

“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,” said Illinois State Police Director Hiram Grau. “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.”

The Illinois Tollway has readied 182 plow trucks and other equipment to combat snow and ice storms this winter across the 286-mile Tollway system in Northern Illinois. In addition, the Tollway has about 82,000 tons of salt on hand along with other supplies, including liquid calcium chloride and roadway abrasives to keep roadways clear for its 1.4 million daily drivers.

“Illinois Tollway crews stand ready to respond to winter conditions to provide the safest, most efficient travel possible for our customers,” said Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur. “Drivers can do their part during winter weather by staying focused on the road, keeping in mind that on January 1, 2014, it will be illegal to drive and use a hand-held phone or texting device at all times.”

Other safety tips to remember:

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.