By Dean Close, Editor
I discovered a new way to drive safely in winter weather: Drive slowly in the snow until the morons in front of you who don’t drive at an appropriate speed or safe driving distance cause a 70-car pile-up, and then sit on the blocked Interstate 35 until the snow melts, and authorities clear the road enough to allow you to turn around and go the other way and take a detour.
Sounds ridiculous, right?
Well, that’s exactly what happened to me on Feb. 17.
We headed for Texas that morning, after learning that our aunt Kathy, a retired Air Force Lt. Col., was near death to complications of cancer. I had checked all of the weather reports, and only saw a chance of light snow in the Des Moines.
As we reached I-35 north of Des Moines heading south, the snow began to blow, enough to limit visibility to maybe 100 yards. On this day, I do what I normally do in these conditions. I slowed down to a safe speed (45-50), stayed in one lane, and ended up proceeding carefully south, following a similarly cautious driver at a safe distance, with another similarly cautious driver safely following me.
Not everyone, however, drove like that. Several cars buzzed passed us like it was sunny and 80. Remembering the recent pile-up on 35, I kept a tight grip on the wheel and eyes on the road and mirror. I grumbled every time someone passed us, realizing this was another great opportunity for a huge pile-up.
Just after the last of several vehicles passed us (and then hit his brakes while pulling in front of me), we saw a Good Samaritan walking our way, in the median, warning us to slow down. We had, indeed, missed the second huge pile-up, this one with about 70 cars, by about a minute.
We sat on the highway for two hours, until authorities could move enough cars to allow us to turn around. And yes, by the time we had resumed our journey, all of the snow had melted, and the sun had come out. Our pile-up had occurred in less than a half-inch of snow.
One of the witnesses quoted in a news story about the second pile-up was quoted as saying that nobody was “driving crazy,” and that everyone was going a safe speed.
I won’t argue with what another person says he saw, but I can tell you that is not what I saw. I observed exactly 2 cars driving safely, and dozens passing us. I wonder how many of those drivers ended up in the pile-up.
A State Trooper said the obvious (again) as law enforcement personnel always do after such pile-ups: Way too many people were driving way too fast, and too way close to the vehicle ahead of them, than road conditions dictated that they should.
A couple of years ago, I wrote a satirical column, encouraging people to avoid all of the winter safety driving precautions that so many already do. This had followed years of writing a serious column, reminding people to slow down, leave space between their vehicle and the one in front of them, and to not rely on brakes to stop your vehicle in slippery conditions.
But after my experience this month, it is clearly time for a more grumpy winter rant.
So, here it is:
If you are not smart enough to know that you can NOT drive on snow, ice, sleet, slush or any other kind of winter precipitation, or in any kind of conditions that include blowing snow, I have a suggestion. Sit in your car until the sun comes out and all of the snow is gone. Then, cautiously, carefully, as though you are not the complete imbecile you seem to be while driving, push the garage door button and carefully pull onto your street.