As my loyal readers know, I live in Freeburg, Illinois. I have been a Midwesterner my whole life. That being said, I am used to having quite diverse weather.
However, it appears that many people living within the area are not familiar with one particular phenomenon: ice. This cool culprit comes around during the months of December, January and February. Unlike its counterpart, snow, ice is not typically pretty to look at and can create some very hazardous conditions.
My town was recently hit with one of the worst snow storms in 20 years. We received about a foot of snow. Then, we were plagued with two days of bitter cold in which the windchill dropped to a -20! This means that all of the chemicals the road crews were putting out were doing…nothing.
I found this out on my way in to work on Tuesday. We were lucky enough to be closed on Monday, but, were put on a snow schedule the following day. Not opening until 10:00 a.m. would surly give the chemicals and sun light a chance to clear things up. Not so much.
The roadways were completely covered in white. I found out that I was actually driving on the side of the road for a portion of my commute. Living in the Midwest, you become very weather savvy. When I am driving in icy/snowy conditions, I will turn on my hazard lights (also known as “flashers”). Many people respected the fact that I was barely going 20 mph and kept their distance.
However, several trucks sailed past me as if there was no reason to not be driving 55 mph. As I approached my turn off, one truck in particular passed me, got in front of me and stomped on his brakes in order to stop at the red light. He promptly slid halfway into the intersection.
Before I could even make the necessary turn, my car suddenly began sliding to the side of the road. Remembering my driver’s education from high school, I knew to turn into the skid. But, the ice didn’t seem to register that that was what I was doing. I continued to slide, bumped into a snow bank and was gently pushed back onto the road.
The ride home was no better. However, I found that the drivers of two types of vehicles in particular were feeling quite brave (and foolish). Yes, trucks and 4 x 4’s were flying past me as if I were in park. A few even had the nerve to give me a dirty look.
I cannot comprehend why the drivers of these vehicles believe that they are impervious to ice. I don’t care if you have 4 wheel drive, chains and 6 tons of cat litter in your truck bed. If you hit a large patch of ice, you WILL slide (or at least fishtail).
Case in point, when I was attending college at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in 2006, we were hit with a very nasty snow storm (much like this one). My Dad worked at the Illinois State Police in Collinsville. He insisted on driving me to school so that I would be safe. The roads were horrible. With as wonderful of a driver as my Dad is, we slid at least four times. We passed several fellow students who were stuck in a ditch by the campus.
Dad decided to use one of his sick days to stay with me so that if any classes were cancelled (as most of mine were), he could take me straight home. After picking up my final report from my Media Ethics class, I told him that we could skip my computer class (which I found out was cancelled later due to the campus closing). We were just passing Eckert’s Country Store when a teenage boy in a red, beat up pick-up truck went flying by, laughing and pointing at us for going so slow.
We watched in amazement as the truck hit a patch of black ice, slide into the nearby ditch and ping-ponged back and forth like a pinball. As we crept by, the boy was no longer laughing. In fact, he looked quite pale and had an “Oh, crap!” look on his face.
The moral of my post? Be safe when driving on icy and snowy roads! You and your vehicle are not invincible. And if you see someone driving with his/her “flashers” on, give them a brake and pass with care, no dirty looks required.