Randomness (r_ness) wrote,

thoughts on winter driving and other delicate social tasks

I originally composed this a couple of weeks ago. The drive tonight through Rhode Island was worse; there were accidents all along I-295 as it quickly iced over, and I had to swerve--gently--to miss a wheel arch which had come off some random car. WPRO's talk radio host was in high dudgeon about the complete absence of any salters or sanders. He was right; I didn't see any either until I was nearly entirely out of Rhode Island.

On the other hand, I did have some more thoughts on the subject. And I didn't collide with anything, so that's all good. :)

But the original post follows, with some more comments added.
There was quite a bit of lake-effect snow last night as I drove from Pittsburgh to Cleveland. Most of the way, the roads were more or less slick with ice and snow.

I did a lot of thinking as I let my winter driving reflexes keep the car under control.

The single most important point about driving on slippery surfaces is this: make no sudden moves. Your tires can do three things: they can turn your car, they can slow down your car, and they can speed up your car. Try not to ask them to do more than one of these at any given time. When the road is slick, they may not be fully able to accomplish even one of them. So don't make any abrupt changes of direction or speed if you don't have to. Sometimes, the best course of action is to do nothing, like on an icy bridge. If it's straight and level, you may be able to go right across it without a hint of a problem if you keep on going directly forward without touching either the accelerator or the brake, where someone who panics might easily lose control.

You may encounter a situation where you must make some change or direction or speed. Then, make any changes you must make gracefully, looking as far ahead as you can to avoid having to take hasty action later.

Quick changes of speed or direction can, if you're relatively lucky, get your car buried in a snowbank by the side of the road. At worst, they can get you buried. Fancy equipment won't help--plenty of SUV drivers can attest to that--and even traction control can fail if none of the wheels can get sufficient grip on the road.

Overconfidence can get you into trouble faster than you can imagine.
Additional thoughts, after driving on glare ice in Rhode Island tonight:

If you do have to make some change of direction, let everyone know well ahead of time, so they have plenty of time to react. And when you've signaled you're going to do something, carry through on it, because telling people you're going to do something and then failing to do it is extremely confusing.

Sometimes it is not clear whether what you are driving on is just wet pavement or black ice. One can change to the other in a disturbingly short time. Don't assume conditions are unchanging just because they look like they are. It may be a very big mistake, making that assumption.

You can do everything right, and still end up in a wreck, if someone near you screws up and crashes into you. So it's useful to try and identify the people around you who clearly don't know what they're doing, either because it's obvious they have no clue, or they're obviously overconfident. Don't stay with them; it's better to just let them roll right out of your life. You may see them again later by the side of the road. But at least you won't have been part of their disaster.
Tags: travel
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