Driving In Snow or What Are You Thinking?
Today I had the wonderful opportunity to speak to the Forest and Vegetation Management Conference in Redding, California. This is usually a short little two hour drive, however, with the current winter storm that finally arrived, there was a bit of snow and it became a 3 1/2 hour trip. Heading south was slow, but fine, slush, packed snow, ice…the usual for our area. Southbound was requiring chains on everything except 4×4′s.
The presentation went very well, I met some wonderful forest revegetators, caught up with some old friends and opened a few doors of opportunity.
My trip home was another story. Northbound was shut down to semi’s and two wheel drives towing trailers, chains on two wheel drive vehicles and 4×4′s were with snow tires were fine. Over the course of the two hours from Redding north, I could not believe what I experienced.
1. If you are stopped to put on chains, pull off to the area provided. Do not stop in the slow lane and open your door without looking. Yes, your door will come off the hinges. You are lucky your head and legs were still in the car. (Note: I did not take the door off, it was the pickup in front of me.)
2. Once you put chains on your car, leave them on until you get out of the controlled area, specifically, out of the snow and ice. Do not drive out of the sight of the check point, take them off, fly by me like a maniac while going down a hill, spin into the snow bank on the side of the road and then expect me to help pull you out. In my humble opinion, it is much better to slow down, chain up and arrive at your destination safely and a bit late, than take a trip to the hospital or morgue.
3. When driving down a slope on packed ice, slow down at the top and do not use your brakes suddenly, especially when going around a corner. Yes, you will lose traction, you will go into a spin, you will maintain your rate of speed and you will take out both of the vehicles in front of you.
4. Give a wide berth when passing snow plows, there is a reason for the sign on the rear that says “Use Caution When Passing.” Yes, if you pass too closely you will hit the blade, it can spin you around and a snow plow can easily push you sideways down the interstate.
Sorry if I am coming across a bit sarcastic, but if you have not driven in snowy conditions and do not have to, don’t, stay home, stay safe. If you have to navigate in these conditions, use the designated chaining areas, obey the chain restrictions, slow down, use commonsense…you are not the only one on the highway.