Slow and steady saves my life


Having lived in the northeast my entire life, I’ve learned a thing or two about driving in bad weather… in the ice... in the snow. Of course, this year flipped things around a bit, with snow falling in ridiculous amounts and temperatures plummeting to ridiculous lows, and the snow not necessarily falling where it was expected to fall and thermometers heading to numbers seldom read and never as often in previous years. But one thing remains the same…

Most New Englanders don’t know how to drive in bad weather.

Oh, settle down, it’s not personal. In fact, most people don’t know how to drive in bad weather. It’s not exclusive to the New England states. It includes New York. It includes Pennsylvania. New Jersey… Maryland… Delaware… and then start heading west. I can virtually guarantee you the story is the same just about any place you care to mention.

This comes with the understanding, of course, that the larger the state the more open land becomes involved, and the chances of actually hitting something other than a cow or sliding into a drainage ditch go down accordingly. It’s one of those size of the state to obstacle in the way inversely proportional ratio kind of things.

This also should not be confused with actually knowing how to drive in bad weather. If you want to seem high comedy, drop an inch of snow on the ground in Texas or Florida and watch the hilarity that follows. They don’t know how to do anything in the ice.

The trick is, in many of these places… say, again, Florida… drivers also don’t pretend that they know how to operate their vehicles when snow is falling.

As far as I can tell, the primary problem is a complete lack of understanding for the rules of driving in bad weather. People don’t respect the rules. People don’t take responsibility for following the rules. The rules are simple enough, and there are only four.

Rule number one -- Don’t touch the brake pedal.

Rule number two -- No, really, don’t touch the brake pedal.

Rule number three -- Keep moving at a consistent speed.

Rule number four -- DON’T TOUCH THE BRAKE PEDAL.

The foundation of this lack of understanding problem appears to be a sense of entitlement. In short, a feeling of: “Oh look, I have a license from the great state of (insert name of a New England state here), and therefore I intuitively know how to drive in the snow.”

No you don’t.

Having a license from a New England state does not automatically bless you with the understanding of whether to turn into the slide or against the slide when you find yourself in one.

Having a license from a New England state does not prevent you from turning your car into an out-of-control sled if you fail to understand what I actually mean by rule number one, rule number two or rule number four.

Having a license from a New England state does not allow you or your vehicle to defy the laws of physics and nature as you think about rule number three and slow down while approaching a hill. (Usually with cars behind you.)

No… being a New Englander doesn’t bring with it an ability to handle snow without a thought.

Instead, it brings with it stories of people such as those that trash their trucks in an attempt to become a millionaire. (Wish I was kidding. Here’s one story I know of…)

Once I was working with this kid that had decided he was going quit his job, since the winter was on the way and he had just bought a new truck. Yup, the money was literally going to be overflowing from his checking account once he got the plow blade attached and the flakes began falling. He had his resignation all but signed.

Unfortunately for him, and his truck, until the snow actually fell and the deposits were being made at the bank, he didn’t have much money after purchasing it and decided that attaching a plow blade was something he could do on his own. And, to be fair, I was told that he did successfully attach one to his truck. What he didn’t do was look into things like the suspension and transmission and… well… you may see the results coming. He destroyed his brand new truck. Heck, he did more than that. Since his truck wasn’t designed for plowing, and he had elected to attached one of the largest blades available (you know, because of all the plowing jobs he was going to get that would surely include massive parking lots and businesses), he managed to void his warranty.

Of course, much of that didn’t matter. Since so many other people had been plowing for years and had established their contacts and contracts, he wasn’t finding many in need of his services. Businesses had long since made arrangements for their needs. He was effectively left only with the option of running ads and hoping for his phone to ring. And oh yeah… in one of those amazing twists for this story, it turned out that was a mild winter. Which meant once he had finished repairing everything, there wasn’t that much plowing to do anyway. The only thing piling up was his bills.

Now… please… understand I am not saying anything negative about people that have snow plows on their trucks. Many of these people have been battling against nature for years, clearing streets and driveways for us so that we may travel more safely. They often are out there for hours, and are called upon around the clock. And they have certainly learned over time, with mistakes providing bills for maintenance and repairs as well as experience.

What I’m being critical of is the people that don’t understand the responsibility involved in addressing bad weather, and don’t take these things seriously. Let’s move off of people plowing the snow and turn to Facebook for a moment.

During some of the storms this winter, especially in Connecticut and Rhode Island, I saw tons of pictures on Facebook. People were posting status updates, and several of them were tweeting away on Twitter as well. There were all sorts of warnings about being slow and careful. There were alerts and notices about accidents and closures and detours.

Incredibly, if you followed the postings, you might have begun to notice something remarkable. It sure as heck seemed like a huge chunk of them were being completed while the person was on the road. Yup… they were in a storm and on roads that were so dangerous that they felt the need to warn everyone about it… and were using a cell phone to take pictures, send text messages, and log on to post things all over the internet. And once they made multiple posts, combining the stories created a timeline… some made it clear that they were likely alone in their car… so they were driving the vehicle. One that I saw actually caught the speedometer on the dashboard registering between 20 and 25… so yeah, I feel comfortable saying they were moving when they snapped the shot.

If you really want to help me out, just keep your car moving along and stop worrying about getting that picture that shows how horrible the driving conditions are. And please, understand why I’m hoping you stay away from your brakes.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I should like to point out, that this article should not be viewed in any way as instructional or informative. I absolutely do not mean that you shouldn’t use the brake pedal in your car. I did not tell to you turn the wheel into or away from the direction of your sliding vehicle. And there is no way that my suggestion when approaching a hill is to pin the accelerator pedal to the floor.

Instead, just put your cell phone away, stop worrying about telling us how horrible the conditions are outside at the exact same moment you are driving in those horrible conditions, and pay attention.

Thank you.

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