Coping With the Snow and Slush

snowflakeWhen it comes to winter in the "warmer" areas of British Columbia, I don't think that anyone does a better job of making fun of bad drivers as Adrian Raeside. The trouble is, it's not so funny when you have to share the roads with them. Many continue to drive as if it is a warm, sunny and dry afternoon.

Last Thursday evening here on the mid island I found myself driving home in a period of heavy snowfall with a temperature of right around the freezing mark. Slushy snow was accumulating everywhere but in the tracks where passing vehicles had pushed it out of the way. Most of us had chosen to drive at 60 to 65 km/h regardless of the fact that the speed limit was posted at 90.

A few four wheel drive pickups were the exception, squooshing by in the left lane 15 to 20 km/h faster.

Four wheel drive or all wheel drive may be great for traction to get going, but when it comes to braking and cornering they are no different that two wheel drive vehicles. There is only so much friction available and it's easy to pass the point of no return.

Occasionally, the headlights in my rear view mirror caused some anxiety. These drivers were still following the Two Second Rule in conditions that merited somewhere between four and six seconds.

If it's too slushy to change lanes, settle back and follow along with everyone else. You are more likely to have me slow down when you tailgate than speed up to keep you happy.

Keeping back also gives you the bonus of better visibility. All of the water and slush thrown up by the vehicle in front of you will have a chance to settle and you won't have to clear your windshield as often.

If you are comfortable that you can pass slower traffic safely, please remember the extended following distance and apply it to the front as well. Don't move back until you are well ahead of the vehicle you passed so that you don't blind the other driver.

In the aftermath of that snowfall, property owners failed in their duty to clear the sidewalks bordering their lots. This forced able bodied pedestrians onto the ploughed roadway and made getting around impossible for those with physical limitations.

It was not uncommon to see these pedestrians walking with their backs to traffic and drivers moving over to avoid them. What happens when circumstances combine narrow lanes, difficulty stopping and steering and oncoming vehicles that can't move over? If you don't see trouble coming, you won't be able to avoid it!

If a driver must move left to avoid an obstacle, it is up to them to wait and not influence oncoming traffic before doing so.


Years back all highways had

Years back all highways had signs posted saying "Walk on Left Facing Traffic", why were these ever removed? Just makes common sense to me.

Another thing I always wonder about is the following distance. I prefer a bit more than is required by the driving manual and actually got it as an incorrect answer. But I do question why one should provide a greater cushion. Are we not all driving on the same road conditions? If it takes me longer to stop is it not going to increase the stopping distance of the car in front of me?

I will defend the drivers of pick-ups to a degree. The weight of the vehicle and depth of tread rubber make a considerable difference. The speed I can travel in my 4 wheel drive crew cab pick-up with the 8 foot box is higher than what I would ever consider in my car. Hydroplaning was one aspect of driving a small car after years of just driving crew cabs was a shock to me. I can travel the same section in the pick-up and have complete control for steering and braking a good 20K faster than I can in the car.

I question to what degree the new safety features contribute to people driving faster. When you have these devices kicking in is it possible for drivers that are use to them not recognizing how close they are to losing control until it is too late and they push past what the computer can correct?

Significant Difference

Just thought I should mention, about four wheel drive/all wheel drive vehicle handling: actually, there is a very significant difference between two wheel drive and four wheel drive, especially on slippery surfaces. When I moved into the woods, and needed the 4X4, I had to (quickly) learn that a four wheel drive vehicle tends to have a great deal more initial understeer than a rear wheel drive vehicle, so the unwary or unfamiliar driver will find themselves struggling to get the vehicle to turn where they expected. The result can be a wide turn (possibly into oncoming traffic), or a run-off-road failure to turn.

Drivers new to slippery surfaces in four wheel drive need to learn to slow more prior to a turn and allow those front tires to get a grip first, then enjoy some additional traction for leaving the corner as intended. If, that is, they had the wit to buy proper tires for the winter, rather than relying on the miracle of all wheel drive to warm the roads before them.

It is, however, a problem that drivers, and especially motorcyclists, struggle with generally: entry speed. Too fast into corners, too fast into intersections. Too fast into the roadside furniture or the ambulance as a result.

On a happier note: here comes spring!

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