Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Driving in Winter

"Car into ditch bad winter weather hwy 404 south near stouffville rd Jan08"
by Theonlysilentbob - Source
Winter is coming.

No, I am not one of the Starks, not even a Karstark*, but it is mid-November in the Northern Hemisphere and winter is approaching. Here in Little Rhody it has already snowed twice, the first time it didn't stick, the second time it did. (I have posted about both of those occurrences. No, I don't plan to turn this place into The Weather Channel, or a weather blog.)

So, that being said, here's what sparked this post -
That much snow down here would have us cancelling school and all forms of craziness. People driving at 10 MPH in a 70 because "Safety" and that's with NO ice. When there's Ice, the same dopes drive at 70. I love my state and it's people, but when it comes to winter driving, I think most leave their brains at home. - Juvat
I remember back in the late '80's I was visiting relatives in Mesquite, Texas and it had snowed the morning we were to head back to Tulsa. There was about an inch of snow on the ground (just about enough to leave a footprint). People in their cars were so traumatized that they almost couldn't function. It took us 4 1/2 hours just to get to the Oklahoma state line. But you know what? They're just about as bad here in Missouri. Like Chris said, most people are totally clueless when it comes to winter driving!
My wife has always said that in every city where we've lived, there's an insane asylum where they give all the inmates a car and tell them to go out and have fun when it snows!! - Russ Kinion
Winter driving is a skill, there are a few tips and tricks that can help but without practicing, you will probably never be any good at it. I have lived in a lot of northern areas where snow is fairly common. I have never been impressed with most people's winter driving "skills," not even in my home state of Vermont.

The biggest problem most people have with driving in winter weather? Hurrying.

The things that might work on a dry road will get you into a ditch or worse in the winter nastiness like that shown in the next photo.

"Toronto lake effect frontal squall". Via Wikipedia - CC

Low visibility and a slippery roadway are both present in that photo above. Can you see any idiots (other than the guy obviously in the wrong lane)? Check out the guys with their headlights off. Yeah, stealth mode, that'll work. If they can't see you, they can't avoid cutting in front of you or even slamming into you from behind.

Just like the old fairy tale, slow and steady wins the race. If your tires are losing their grip on the roadway, let off on the gas. But most folks will give it more gas, the temptation to do so is huge. Even winter drivers who know better will do that. We've all seen the spinning drive wheels and the car going absolutely no where.

The Missus Herself and I went down to Virginia Beach for Christmas of 2009, there had been a sizeable snow storm along the East Coast, particularly in Delaware. Now I don't know if we have any readers from Delaware, so apologies will be offered up front. Those folks have no clue how to plow the roads nor how to drive on the remaining ice and/or slush once they have semi-cleared the roads.

We decided to pull into a shopping center as there was a Dunkin' Donuts therein. We discovered that this fairly large shopping center had only two roads that had been semi-plowed going in and out. And this (mind you) just a few days before Christmas. Took us 30 minutes to travel about 100 feet. And that was after helping to push at least three vehicles that I remember just to clear the road.

"Please stop pressing on the gas ma'am. All you're doing is spraying crap all over us. Slow and steady, please. In fact, just put it in first gear and just take your foot off the gas."

"What's first gear?"

Yes, (oh my aching back) some people have no business behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, even when the sun is shining and the birds are singing. When it's snowing? Please, park it in the garage and take the bus. Or learn how to drive in the snow!

Slow and steady. No sudden moves. Don't let the snow and ice sense your fear.

A buddy of mine, I'll call him Dave, (because that was his name) and I used to look forward to the first really good snow. We would both hop in our Volkswagen Beetles and motor down to the junior high school parking lot to go what we called "slipping and sliding."

Before the parking lot (which was pretty big) was plowed we had a nice semi-slippery surface to practice our winter driving skills. We both got pretty good at it. Tricks using the emergency brake, controlled skids, even a whirling semi-out of control 360 could be done in that lot with nary a worry. (Though once I almost rolled my bug, I managed to steer out of it by sheer luck. But I learned!)

That's another thing about winter driving, if you don't do it a lot, you won't ever be good at it.

Even tanks have trouble on icy roads, I've seen a Sherman tank slide down an icy road in the Ardennes. (Well, film of it actually, not in person, though I am getting older, I'm not that old!) The French Hotchkiss H35 Char B** in German livery in the next photo probably had a driver from Nordrhein-Westfalen, where they don't get much snow. A Bavarian would have handled it, no problem.

"Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-174-1164-07, Jugoslawien, Beutepanzer H39 im Winter" by Heber - This image was provided to Wikimedia Commons by the German Federal Archive (Deutsches Bundesarchiv) as part of a cooperation project. The German Federal Archive guarantees an authentic representation only using the originals (negative and/or positive), resp. the digitalization of the originals as provided by the Digital Image Archive.. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0-de via Wikimedia Commons

Yeah, winter driving. I am so looking forward to that.

As long as everybody else stays home.

*From time to time I will quote (misquote) A Song of Fire and Ice (That's Game of Thrones to you plebeians.)
** Yeah, yeah, wrong tank. I should have read the caption. H/T to Prairieadventure.


  1. Unlike most folks, I'm one of those people who love winter (yes, you can say crazy if you want) and I definitely love snow. I even enjoy getting out and shoveling around the house and the driveway!!! (Our driveway is about 200' long) Driving in the snow is enjoyable until I have to face other drivers, then not so much. I usually have long one-sided conversations with many of the other drivers. Especially the the folks with 4-wheel drive who think they can drive at normal speeds!!

    1. I share your sentiments regarding winter. Except for the shoveling part.

      The 4WD types drive me crazy. They think that having it confers special stopping abilities upon them.


  2. "I signed up for the Wehrmacht Panzers and all I got was this lousy Hotchkiss!"

  3. Thoughts from an old Colorado driver. 4WD doesn't equal 4 wheel stops. If you have a newer vehicle with traction control, learn when to turn it off, or you won't make it up that steep, curving driveway. If you are passing me you are truly crazy, because I'm already driving too fast for the conditions.

    1. You must not live in Denver. None of those guys seem able to handle snow and ice.

      Heartily concur with the "if you're passing me" theory.

  4. Denver has far too many new residents who are seeing their first winter, and a large group of idiots who should never have been given a drivers license.

  5. "Yeah, winter driving. I am so looking forward to that. As long as everybody else stays home." We feel the same way, here in Alaska. It's not uncommon to get in excess of two feet of fresh powder overnight, and we've never seen a snowstorm that we couldn't drive in.

    But all those other people who have no business on the road in their beat-up Dodge Neons, sans studded tires or common sense ... sheesh!

    1. Even in Alaska?

      I would have thought that all of those folks would have fled south long ago. But then again, that would require a modicum of sense, wouldn't it?

  6. I think I got frostbite just reading this post. By the way, I've got a hot one ready to go.

    1. I shall queue it up for tomorrow. Looks like another instant Tuna classic!

  7. One doesn't need 4x4 drive all that much on most hwys and is mostly a needless cost, although front-wheel drive DOES help in the snow vs rear-wheel drive vehicles. Growing up in central Illinois in the 50s I got a a lot of practice on snow & ice in rear-wheel drive cars. If you can handle yourself in one of those you are ready for ANYTHING in a front-wheel drive vehicle, lol

    1. Yup, if you can do front engine, rear wheel drive in the snow, you can handle most anything.

      Some don't care for it but I enjoy the front wheel drive. Especially in snow!

  8. sarge/

    IIRC there is on youtube somewhere a series of vids of volvo's test driver showing the superior high performance/speed handling in the snow & ice of front-wheel drive cars..

    1. I think I saw that video once upon a time. I think I need to hunt for it.

  9. Yeah, time to drag out the 57 DeSoto tank with all four fenders dented... sigh


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