From my colleague East of the Mountains...
I keep hearing on the news- “prepare for winter driving” and “drive for conditions,” and I would if somebody would tell me what that means.
If this is a thought you’ve been having - let me see if I can help.
What winter driving means to me is- slipping and sliding and skidding if I try to drive the speed limit. It can also mean a fender bender, a towing bill, a ticket, and a trip to the hospital if I don’t drive differently than I did all spring, summer and fall.
Driving on the cold, dry snow has been relatively easy. I have found that if I just go slower (ten to fifteen miles per hour slower), and push gently on my brakes when I need to stop and gently on the gas when I need to go, I can get anywhere I want to go without getting into trouble.
Driving in slush is a whole new ball game. Slush is not only slippery, it’s grabby. It suddenly slows the car down, makes a big splash, and can make changing lanes scary. And if I happen to drift onto the shoulder a little it will pull me right into the ditch before I can say oh ____! Plus the big rigs with big tires- like semis- throw that stuff up onto my windshield and cover my side windows making it very hard to see out the sides of my car.
After I cross the pass, I often have to stop at the nearest car wash to clean the windows off before I can safely get back on the road. When the sun goes down and it gets below freezing- that lousy pile of slush on the side of the road- or in front of my driveway- turns to ice. Now I have a new “driving for conditions” challenge. When the slush turns to ice, I opt to just stay home until it changes into something else. I think I like the dry powdery stuff best.
As far as being prepared- that means digging through all the stuff in the garage to find the chains, making sure they fit the car I’m driving now and replacing the old, dried out, noisy windshield wipers that clear most of the windshield except for that little spot right in front of me. You know the spot- the one that ices up and the wiper won’t clear until I roll down the window and reach out into the cold, catch the blade while it’s wiping (long arms make this possible) and pull it away from the glass a few times until it pops all of the snow and ice off.
I also take a winter coat, hat, gloves, jumper cables, a flash light and reflectors so I can stay warm if I have to put the chains on or I have to wait while the people who didn’t prepare and didn’t drive for conditions get straightened out or towed out of the way.
Mike Westbay, WSDOT in Yakima