VIEWPOINT - Inconsiderate Pickup Drivers
I happened to be on the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway #1) on Vancouver Island during the big snow storm just before Christmas, travelling from Victoria to Parksville, and there were some occasions where I wondered about the sanity of pick-up truck drivers. To explain, there was slushy snow and large puddles of water on the highway, most of it in the passing lane, and the traffic on both sides of the highway, for safety reasons, stayed in the clearer right lane. Not so the pick-up truck drivers: they would pass everyone at unsafe speeds, and engulf other vehicles, including mine, in a deluge of water, leaving drivers like me with no visibility for, I would say, three seconds. Three seconds is awfully long when you cannot see, and you need nerves of steel to not panic.
Now, these truck drivers could see these large puddles of water on the road, they could see other vehicles on the road that were smaller than their own, they could see that we were all driving through difficult conditions, and yet, because they wanted to pass everyone, they hit the gas, ploughing into these huge puddles, causing grief to innocent victims.
I do not know if these types of drivers (and in my experience, pick-up drivers are notorious) give much thought to the consequences of their actions, which could have been serious or fatal accidents. But I believe that more education and attention to this matter by law enforcement and our provincial government are needed.
What Can We Do
Until these drivers change their dangerous/aggressive behaviours (if that ever happens), what can we do about it to improve our safety?
Three seconds of lost visibility at 50kph is approximately 40 meters blind, which can easily lead to a crash.
Around dangerous/aggressive drivers, I tend to drive slower and give more room. On the snowy highway, with a truck coming fast from behind, I understand there are not that many options. Maybe a driver might be able to slow down a bit and make sure that there's plenty of room between the vehicle and the one in front (in case of lost visibility).
Maybe a driver might make a report to the police about the incident, if there is a blatant violation of the law.
I agree that more education and enforcement would be beneficial to deter dangerous/aggressive driving behaviours.
The old saying there is two sides to the coin.
I will start off by saying one must be considerate of all drivers on the road. There is no excuse to deliberately pass a vehicle through a puddle one can wait till conditions change. There is also nothing stopping me from slowing down, moving over to let someone that wants to go faster pass. Both drivers are inconsiderate.
Have been driving Crew Cab pick-ups since they first started to produce in the mid 60's and still own a 2500 diesel GMC long box. So, I am familiar with the CC pick-up that so many love to hate and driving a small front wheel drive car. And the first thing I must point out is the difference in handling in the conditions you posted above. From my own experience I would say that the pick-up maybe more in control than the smaller car. I would also like to point out I have always stayed with the tire size recommended by the mfg. as I feel that is what the vehicle was designed for and will probably handle better with stock.
With the tires in mind I believe a new tire for my car has 8mm of tread, for the CC 11mm and many drivers put on heavier lugs than what I use. It may not seem like much but the extra tread depth and more open lug pattern disperses slush better. There is also the weight factor. My Jetta is around 1300kg, the pick-up double that at 2600 and as one is usually loaded with equipment if it is a work vehicle probably pushing upwards of 3400kg or better.
It is the first thing I noticed when I started to drive a small front wheel drive car, they hydroplane like crazy. This year the car has new studded snow tires yet I still have to slack off on the pedal when pulling steep hills in slush even in 6th. gear. It will just start to spin. Problem is the light weight allows it to hydroplane. With the crew cab I can pull out into the deep slush and tramp it with no problems. That is how much difference there is between vehicles. There has never been a time I have given consideration to waiting till later to travel with the pick-up that is not the case with the car. I have stayed overnight and one time even slept in a pull out rather than continue on.
Yes a lot of those drivers passing in the left lane are idiots and don't have a clue what to do if they start to lose control but that is also true for the slower drivers in the right lane. Just because they are doing 50 in a 100 zone in the right lane does not make them a safe driver they can be just as much out of their element as the guy in the left passing them.
As for the spray one must learn to live with it. It doesn't make any difference whether it is traffic you are meeting, overtaking or passing you. You know you are going to be hit. Turn the wipers on high before the spray hits and be ready to hit the washers if needed. And know what is coming at you.
If you have trouble driving on a 4 lane divided highway never tackle the twin tracks from Malakwa through to Lake Louise especially at night when all you see is on-coming trucks and every time you meet you not only have your windshield covered it also builds up on the headlights. And they always seem to travel in packs. I have used 2 jugs in 150k and stopped 4 times to clean headlights.
The above conditions also point out why I feel autonomous driving will be a long time before we see it. Meet a line up of trucks and the spray will have those vehicles shutting down in the middle of the road when all the sensors get covered. The only one that seems to continue working is the auto braking.
what to do?
I'm pretty sure I won't be enlightening many of you out there with this, but I'm gonna forge ahead anyway.
A key factor of defensive driving, is being aware of your surroundings. That being said, one should be aware of a pickup overtaking, and should have time to take stock of your own lane position, other vehicles and their approximate position in relation to yourself, and (what I do when it is obvious I'm about to be blinded, either by spray, or oncoming brights) get a handle on a landmark. If your wipers are working when you are shat upon, (by spray) then the blindness should be minimal, and, having assured yourself of a comfortable clear zone around yourself, you should be ok.
The nerves of steel, are definitely a blessing, and you should be very grateful if you have been so blessed.