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Flash! Snow will still be slippery this winter

November 07, 2003|by CATRINA COGHILL/Wheelbase Communications

NEWS FLASH! For those of you who haven't noticed, summer doesn't last forever.

This isn't the voice of nostalgia speaking, rather, it's the voice of irritation.

Every day, the mercury is dropping a little farther.

And every day, I'm left dreading the approach of the annual epidemic of collective amnesia that sweeps through the streets whenever winter comes.

It's that aggravating memory loss you inevitably see when the first snowfall comes: when some people drive like they've forgotten what snow is.

You know the ones - the people who traditionally strive to make the first day of snow the most accident-filled day of the year.


I'm sure some of them - a tiny handful - haven't seen snow before, at least not from behind the wheel. There are always some new drivers trying to come to grips with icy roads for the first time.

But you and I both know there's no way that just as the white stuff is starting to fall, EVERYONE around you suddenly becomes a first-time driver.

So to all those people: let me enlighten you with a little advance warning.

Next time you see white flakes falling, making their annual winter debut, stop for a second.

Stop, think, and ask yourself: Hmmm. . . have I ever seen this stuff before?

Then ask yourself: Lessee. . . the last time there was a massive layer of this mysterious white stuff covering the ground - like, say, last winter - what was it like to drive on. . . sticky? Or slippery enough to send my car out of control at the slightest touch of my brake pedal?

If you guessed slippery, you win the prize.

That's right: when the first snowfall hits, this is not - repeat, NOT - the time to test the wonders of your fabulous new anti-lock brakes, or your great new tires . . . or your bumper and air bags.

When I see people crazily slipping and sliding all over the road at the first sign of snow, I have to ask myself: do these people think there's some possibility, however slim, that the rules of physics changed over the summer? Do they think that perhaps the wet snow is now coated with glue as it falls from the sky, and therefore might actually aid traction and reduce stopping distance?

Do they think the little snowflakes spend the summer on retreat, working out at the gym, or hanging out at the lab developing secret traction formulas?

Or do they maybe just think snow is like. . . ice cream, or popsicles, that get stickier the more you let them melt?

Whatever it is they're thinking, I just wish they would think about slowing down.

Winter driving skills shouldn't be that hard to remember; if you can remember how to drive a bicycle, why not how to drive in ice and snow?

It shouldn't take an accident to jar your memory.

It's not like winter is unexpected; it always follows fall, which always follows summer.

So why don't people get the hang of it? When the snow flies, ease up on the gas, ease up on the brake, and quit weaving in and out of lanes.

Repeat until spring.

It's simple.

Then again, maybe I'm simple, too, for thinking it will ever change.

Catrina Coghill is a journalist with Wheelbase Communications. You can e-mail her at

© 2003, Wheelbase Communications

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