Tahoe Chief’s Corner: When it comes to winter driving, don’t be ‘that guy’
November 1, 2016
We're starting to see a change in the weather, and the first few rain and snow events of the season have already produced the predictable rash of vehicle accidents on I-80 and the major roads in the area.
Most took place on surfaces that were only wet, not even snow covered or especially slippery. We'll be seeing snow before long and — as everyone who has lived here through at least one winter knows — that first snowstorm will bring a bumper crop of work for the local body shops.
Most winter vehicle accidents are both predictable and preventable, and there are specific behaviors that those of us in the fire service see repeated again and again, so our collective plea is "Don't be 'that guy…'"
You know that guy — he's the one driving down Highway 28 or Donner Pass Road navigating through a Frisbee-sized spot scraped through the frost on his windshield — he can only see straight ahead and even that field of view is extremely limited.
He's the one proudly toting around a 36-inch-high birthday cake of snow on top of his car. That guy can be seen sliding sideways down Northwoods on worn out "all season" tires because he didn't quite get around to putting the winter tires on after the first, second and third storms of the season.
That guy never seems to realize that what he's doing is a hazard to himself and others until things go badly wrong. As a long-time observer, let me offer a few suggestions for how to avoid becoming that guy:
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Allow a yourself extra time in challenging conditions. This will provide opportunity to warm up your car so the defroster is effective, scrape your windshield (along with the side and rear windows!), remove snow from the roof of the car and — most importantly — slow down and drive at a speed appropriate to the conditions.
Install your winter tires a few weeks before it actually starts snowing. Waiting until the first snow is a great way to meet other people — and you're better off meeting them while waiting in line at a local auto shop than after you collide with their car — but driving on less than adequate tires through that first storm is an avoidable risk.
Remove that pile of snow from the roof of your car. It will slide down over the windshield at the most inappropriate and dangerous moment, guaranteed.
By far, the easiest and most certain way of not being that guy is to simply SLOW DOWN! This is true in rainy weather or in slippery conditions, but it's amazing how few people grasp it. Simply slowing down will reduce or eliminate any number of other "that guy" issues, from bad tires to poor visibility.
Your firefighters and law enforcement professionals very much appreciate slower speeds through any emergency scene they happen to be working.
That's it — have a great winter, and please, don't be "that guy."
Pete Bansen is chief of the Squaw Valley Fire Department. Visit svpsd.org/svfd/fire to learn more.
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