The Illinois Tollway today activated Zero Weather Road Patrols to assist customers stranded in their cars during the severe cold weather and dangerous wind chills.
The Tollway anticipates mobilizing the Zero Weather Road Patrols throughout the week whenever temperatures or sustained wind chills fall below zero.
The 24-hour Zero Weather Road Patrols search for drivers stranded in disabled vehicles and respond to calls that come in to *999 motorist assistance, Illinois Tollway dispatch or Illinois State Police District 15.
While the Tollway’s Highway Emergency Lane Patrol (H.E.L.P.) trucks sponsored by State Farm run from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday, the Zero Weather Road Patrols work throughout the day and night, including weekends. Cars or trucks with empty fuel tanks, flat tires, batteries needing a boost, or overheated radiators are just some of the most frequent problems reported among drivers needing help.
“With the severe cold weather and extreme wind chills, we want our customers to stay with their vehicles if they become stranded and not try to go for help,” said Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur. “Our Zero Weather Road Patrols are only a phone call away and ready to assist drivers who need help during these dangerous conditions.”
There are a minimum of 11 Zero Weather Road Patrols, at least one from each of the Tollway’s maintenance garages located throughout the system.
Zero Weather Road Patrols augment H.E.L.P. trucks and State Police patrols and ensure all segments of the Tollway system are carefully monitored, especially during the overnight hours. While on patrol, these vehicles also retrieve debris from the roadway and assist State Police, as needed.
The Zero Weather Road Patrols consist of crew cab trucks equipped with arrow boards for directing traffic around accidents or stranded vehicles and enough room to accommodate up to five passengers if motorists need to be transported to a Tollway maintenance garage, toll plaza or Tollway oasis while service is obtained.
The Tollway reminds customers that the seven oases located along the Tollway system serve as warming centers and also provide drivers an opportunity to check their vehicles or simply take a break.
The oases provide a variety of food, beverage and retail offerings, as well as Mobil fuel stations. On the Tri-State Tollway (I-94/I-294/I-80), there are four oases: Lake Forest, O’Hare, Hinsdale and Chicago Southland Lincoln in South Holland. There are two oases on the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90) in Belvidere and Des Plaines and one on the Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88) in DeKalb.
Winter Weather Travel Tips
The Tollway offers the following travel tips to keep safe during dangerously cold weather:
- Be sure your cell phone is fully charged before heading out.
- Be sure tires are properly inflated during cold weather. Tires lose a pound of pressure for every 10 degrees the temperature drops. Check your vehicle owner’s manual for recommended tire pressure.
- Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up and ensure that you have extra driving time if the weather is unfavorable. Also, consider using winter or synthetic motor oil for colder temperatures, as conventional oils may thicken in colder temperatures. Check your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations for oil that meets colder temperature ranges.
- Keep a cold weather safety kit in your car that includes gloves, boots, blankets, road flares, water and a flashlight with fresh batteries. Other items to include: jumper cables, first-aid kit, basic tool kit, hot packs, bottled water and non-perishable snacks such as granola or candy bars.
- Stranded motorists should turn on their emergency lights and remain in their vehicles until help arrives.
- Cell phone users should call *999 motorist assistance for roadway assistance or to report other motorists pulled over on the side of the road. Before calling, motorists should try to note the roadway and direction of travel and nearest milepost or crossroad so the stranded motorist can be quickly located.
Illinois Tollway Keeps Drivers Informed
The Tollway offers the following ways for drivers to get the latest travel information before they get on the road:
- www.illinoistollway.com – Construction/Planning section and Tollway Trip Calculator and real-time roadway incident information
- 1-800-TOLL-FYI – Daily lane closure and travel information (updated every two hours or as conditions require during winter storms
- www.travelmidwest.com – Real-time travel times
- www.nbcchicago.com – Up-to-the-minute traffic by roadway
- www.myfoxchicago.com – Latest traffic conditions
- www.twitter.com – Real-time roadway incident information at Tollway Trip 90, Tollway Trip 88, Tollway Trip 355 and Tollway Trip 94/294