Ask The Best And Brightest: What's The Strangest Thing You've Seen On A Snowy Road?

Every year when the first snows of the year hit the road, you’ll always be treated to some kind of madness as motorists struggle to adapt to the new conditions. This is especially true here in the Pacific Northwest, where our metropolitan centers see maybe a few inches of snow per year but our drivers are in no way used to the white-and-slippery stuff. Each year, when we get snow on the roads for a few days, I see the kinds of sights that make me despair for our collective automotive competency: front-drive minivans with chains on the rear wheels, rear-drive pickups with chains on the front, and 4×4 pickups getting stuck in a few inches of drifted snow. Or, as this video of Seattle drivers grappling with snow earlier this week shows, on some occasions the streets simply descend into a pirouetting symphony of low-traction incompetence. What’s the worst snow-related driving offense you’ve ever seen?

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  • JimC JimC on Nov 25, 2010

    Not really a snow story, but one Christmas while on a road trip with my sister and one of her friends we happened upon a young man who had just slightly low-centered his compact pickup in a shallow ditch in the median. (The ditch didn't look quite so bad in the dark and he had intended to make a U-turn.) We told him we'd help but only if he was going to push and let one of the ladies drive. He paused for a moment (stickshift truck) but his inner gentleman and better judgment agreed to let my sister get behind the wheel. I told my sister to give it barely any gas pedal and in just a few seconds we all got his truck unstuck with very little drama. The pickup truck guy was polite and thankful. I told him that complete strangers had helped me get unstuck at least once, pass the favor along to the next guy sometime, and that yes, I was the one who taught my sister to drive a standard.

  • James Mackintosh James Mackintosh on Nov 25, 2010

    This would've been December of 2004, I believe. I was a Junior in high school in normally nice Raleigh, North Carolina. If you've been down here, you know snow is to southerners as kryptonite is to superman. We had a particularly nasty situation - it snowed in the morning, warmed up and melted some of the snow. Then the temperature dropped and the water froze. Then it snowed more. At the time, I was driving a 1997 Volvo 850 sedan. Non-turbo, automatic, and yeah boy - heated seats. We had a set of dedicated snow tires for the car - Blizzak WS-50's - since the car had come with my family from Pittsburgh, but they were tucked away safely in our basement, since there was nothing about snow in the forecast. This was an AWFUL snow storm for Raleigh. It wasn't deep but there was no grip, and driver's here are just a few IQ points away from mentally retarded when it snows. The snow-on-ice combo just killed it. Busses couldn't move, there were hundreds of kids that got to have sleepovers in their public-school libraries that night, etc. So I'm rolling on all-season tires (thankfully nice fat 195/60/15 Goodyear TripleTreads, great A/S tires) but i have a lot on my side. One, an 850 is one seriously front-heavy FWD car. There's traction control, not great TCS but it will prevent wheelspin below like 15mph pretty effectively, and the secret weapon - winter mode. It will start the transmission off in 3rd gear and gradually lock the converter. You could basically climb an ice-covered snow pole with this car. Normally I took three other kids home from school. One was the dork who lived across the street, and the other two was this girl I really liked and her sister. So I take the girls home first, without incident. Having spent 7 years in north indiana and 4 in Pittsburgh, I get the theory of snow driving pretty well. I get them home safely, with the only iffy moment being the traction control going nuts getting going from a dead stop on the hill in front of the house. On the way out of the McNeighborhood, a Grand Cherokee turns left in front of me, the back end swings around, and all four tires spin as he careens backwards into the curb at low speed. sigh. The best part was coming up the main road to my neighborhood. There's a long, gradual hill with some decent lead-up to it. I'm stopped at the front of a red light, and a lady in a white (E36) 328is takes a right turn out of the shopping center. which quickly becomes her making a U-turn, which then becomes her making a left turn. So she spins the car back around and gets going up the hill. It's maybe 400' long to the top of the incline. On her first attempt with no head start momentum, she gets maybe a third the way up it, then the tires spin, and she slides back down. By this time I've pulled through the intersection, and a guy pulls out behind me in a tacoma, spinning around backwards. Sigh. She gets ready for attempt two, and backs up to the intersection (maybe 100' from the start of the hill.) Gets going steadily, is maybe at 15mph when she hits the hill. Gets half way up it, wheels spin, she slides back down. oh boy. Nice BMW, lady! So she figures third time's the charm. Backs way up, well past the intersection, and I hear the sweet symphonic wail of BMW straight-six churning up snow. she blasts past me, tires still spinning, rear end skipping around, probably 35mph. Halfway up the hill again, the wheels spin, and I suppose she says "F*%$ it." Reverses into the curb to stop movement, and just parks it up. At this point I decide it's safe to go, and as I drive by her, I wave. a friend of mine had an E46 325i with Bilstein/H&R suspension and sways, a diffsonline LSD conversion, and 3.46 gears with 245/40/18 Z-rated summer tires. He would lose me in a minute on backroads in the dry, but he described the car as suicidal in the winter, even with VDC or whatever BMW calls it. -James

  • Rocketrodeo Rocketrodeo on Nov 28, 2010

    I commuted from Ann Arbor to Dearborn at 5am for about four years. Traction was never a problem (thank you Blizzaks; have had four sets now), but my fellow commuters were. What I don't get is why folks will tailgate you on snow-covered roads at a distance that wouldn't be remotely safe in dry weather. One morning a particularly aggressive Riviera driver attempted to push me along for about five miles. Yeah, I was in the left lane, but was hardly impeding traffic. At the airport exit, his headlights suddenly disappeared, and in my mirror I saw him go spinning into the wall of snow on the berm. The car was still there, mostly buried, on the commute home.

  • Rcousine Rcousine on Nov 29, 2010

    Vancouver (BC) experienced an early and fairly heavy* snowfall last week, and I caught this photo on my way to work, which I hope will show up: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=466059340107&set=a.294984870107.158227.592280107 That is a nice white Nissan GT-R, on stock non-snow tires. California plates, too. Moments after this shot, the young owner got into the car, did a very gingerly U-turn (with minimal tire slippage) and deposited the poor car in an underground lot on the same block. Having that car out and about considering the weather predictions? Bad idea. Immediately parking it, presumably for the day? Pretty good idea! (BTW, I took this photo while riding my bicycle to work; on bad snow days like this, I find the bike is more reliable than transit or getting stuck in traffic with everyone else).

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