Originally Posted by mudbug
We are supposed to get a couple of inches of dry powdery stuff between 7 pm and 7 am.
All is lost. Schools will close. Grocery stores will be deluged. And I will still have to go to work tomorrow.
This is going to be lengthy, but i promise, if you read this post in its entirety, you will learn something about driving that you may not yet know. And it's all true.
Our schools just don't normally close around here, unless it's white-out conditions. That hasn't happened here yet, but pretty close. Driving home from Munising to Sault Ste. Marie two weeks ago, my work partner and I nearly ended up in a fender-bender. There was a white semi ahead of us, but do to the snow cloud it stirred up, visibility was near zero. We just drove by watching it's tracks a few feet in front of the van we were in. My partner dropped our speed to about 30 mph. And it was a good thing. As we entered the town of Seaney, which we didn't know we were entering do to the near zero visibility, the 18 wheeler's tail lights came on. We were not able to see the trailor until those lights came on. We were about 20 feet behind the rig and had no time to stop. My partner had two choices, veer sharply right, or sharply left. To the right was a busy gas station with no where for us to go so we went left into a turn lane. Luckily, it was clear. But there was a car moving in the same direction as we were which made a left turn through the quickly apporaching intersection. There was no chance to stop. The laws of motion and the coefficient of friction were against us (a very slippery road). The car got through the intersection just before we barreled through. We missed it by inches. If my partner had reacted as do most people, by jamming on the breaks, we would have collided with semi. There would have been no way to avoid it.
We couldn't go right when we saw the car because the semi was to the right of us, and couldn't go further left without entering a lane of oncomming traffic. My heart raced for a few minutes.
Where I live, this isn't a rare occurance. You really have to be on your toes in such weather. I've driven within a couple feet of a large, white truck without knowing it and not being able to see it until brake lights came on in the white-out conditions. You traveled 40 miles to a job site and the weather was good when you left to get there. Then, a blizzard moves in and you're driving home in white-out conditions, on icy roads. Once, to get up a particular hill, I had to get out of the truck I was in and bounce on the rear bumper to provide sufficient down force for the rear tires to grab and move us up a hill that we had to navigate. And don't even get me started on the freezing rain that the defroster and windshield wipers going full blast didn't even help slow down, let alone remove the formation of ice on our windshield.
I traveled into Chicago once during a blizzard. My vehicle tacked well as I know how to drive on slippery roads, having done it most of my life. But the cars and trucks comming off the on-ramp hit the highway and slid accross four lanes on the loop. I was scared silly, thinking that someone was just going to plow into me. Somehow I avoided the skidding vehicles and got through the experience.
Now I'm not going to dis' windy city drivers. But I do caution anyone not used to icy conditions, if you're not used to driving on ice, please stay off the roads as you endanger yourself and everyone around you. It takes a few years of driving in bad conditions to really become proficient at it, and then only if you work at it. I see people here, who should know how to drive in it, end up in ditches, and in car wrecks that could have easily been avoided with a bit of common sense.
My rules of thumb (I haven't been in an accident in more years than I can remember, and never in one that I caused, since I was 16 years old, and I'm 51 now), are, if you are sliding forward while trying to brake, throw the vehicle into neutral. This elliminates the engine from driving the wheels and allows equal brake pressure and stopping power for all four tires. If you still can't stop, look for an alternate route and remove your foot from the brakes. You can steer when the front wheels are rolling. Snow banks will stop you safely and do little if any damage to the car. And they won't sue you when they are hit. In icy conditions, maintain at least four seconds between you and the vehicle in front of you. On multi-lane roads, try to keep open spaces to the right and left in case the person in front of you has to suddenly stop. This gives you space to swerve into and avoid a collision. Watch your mirrors and everything that's going on around you. Pay attention to the road and your surroundings. A great song on the radio can really make you feel good, until you find that you were paying too much attention to it and your front bumper is sitting in your lap. Plan ahead for turn offs or lane changes, making sure you won't startle someone else by cutting them off, which can cause them to make a mistake and get in an accident. Be courteous on the road. Trust others to do stupid things around you, and take precautions to be able to avoid getting into a bad situation because of those stupid things.
For instance, when driving down a street, or 2-lane highway, that has streets where people can enter the highway, expect drivers to enter the highway when they are sitting at the stop sign, whether there is room or not. I have succesfully been able to avoid a host of accidents where a driver "didn't see me", especially on motorcycles, because I watch for tire movement. If the tires even begin to move forward, I take evasive action. I've had people pull out directly in front of me where I had no time to avoid them if I had jammed on the breaks, but was able to steer around them. In fact, it was that ability that helped me pass my first driver's test. A car pulled out directly in front of me from a store driveway. I had to swerve into the left lane to avoid a collision. My driving monitor stated after it was over that he didn't understand how I was able to avoid the collison and assured me that I'd passed my driving test, and to forget the few small errors I had made previous to the collison avoidance. I was jsut happy that I hadn't wrecked my siter's car as she had a very bad temper (true story)
Remember, a rolling wheel is in a state called static friction. That is, the rubber that is touching the ground is momentarily still with relationship to the ground. It is laid down, sits there, and is lifted up. Once a wheel starts sliding, it goes into a state that in physics is call kinetic friction. Guess what my freinds, static friction has a much greater stopping force than does kinetic friction, which is why car-makers put anti-lock breaks on cars. If the steering wheels are rolling, they will allow you to steer. If they are sliding, then one fo Newton's laws of motion comes into play. An object in motion will remain in motion at a constant speed and direction, unless acted upon by some other force. And what is the other force that allows you to steer your car in directions other than a straight line, friction.
I have had advanced motorcycle skills training, but learned my skid control by driving an old snowmobile with metal cleats that acted just like ice-skating blades when the sled was turned sideways on ice. I used to love to spin that machine around in circles, without turning it over. But it taught me to control a fish-tail instinctively, and how to avoid other snowmobilers (we were teens at the time) who would stop dead in front of me. My machine had little in the way of breaks. mnay were the snow-banks I climbed on that machine while avoiding my sometimes pinhead freinds.
I took each of my kids into very large, ice-covered parking lots, in the wee morning hours to teach them how to execute controlled stops, turns, and to control fish-tails when things were slippery. None of them has wreked a vehicle due to silippery conditions yet, and they've been driving for about twelve years now. Defensive driving works. But it isn't something you're born with. It's something you learn.
Ok kids, I'll stop the lecture now. I just don't want to hear of any accidents among my freinds.
Seeeeeya; Goodweed of the North.