QOTD: Found Yourself in a Slippery Situation?
Wintery weather gripped many parts of North America over the past week, as the snowman arrived earlier than expected. Seeing all the accompanying gross photos got me thinking about driving in winter, which is of course where we all shine … and everyone else is awful.
Except for when we’re actually awful ourselves. Let’s talk about winter weather driving experiences.
This post builds upon the Question of the Day from last week, where we discussed the closest calls we’ve had in general driving situations. With this winter weather conversation, go ahead and share the close calls and the times you actually hit something. I’ll go first.
It was Christmas break in 2006, and your author was having some Audi time. A 1993 Audi 90S to be more precise; the one pictured above. The weather before the day of the incident was very snowy (for southeast Indiana), with accumulations of probably six inches. It was all cleared off by the next day, the day I drove my brother, sister, and a friend over to Kentucky for a movie or some other activity. The roads were dry by the sunny mid-afternoon journey from Indiana, around I-275 by Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky airport. Or at least they were mostly dry.
Rounding a sweeping bend in the left lane, the speed of the 90S was two digits that started with an 8. Ahead in my lane and closing in fast was what looked like a wet spot. Except as I got closer, it was a bit more than that. The sun made it so it was very hard to make it out until I was right on top of it — and by then it was really too late. Some words were expressed fairly calmly from my mouth: “Hang on, because we’re going to crash.”
The front tire or tires hit the black ice and slid, catching on the dry pavement at the other side. The wheels were turned slightly to the right because of the curve of the road, and when grip returned the car jerked violently in that direction. We started to spin. Foot hard down on the pedal, ABS saved me from a big skid. Turning the wheel to try and stay in control (which didn’t work), around we went. The front driver’s side fender of the Audi made an awful crunch against the hard ice and snow piled up against the inside shoulder. As we slowed and came to a stop after a 360 degree revolution, we ended up facing the correct direction, resting in the left lane. To use a Twitter word, I was shook.
Other traffic had come to a halt behind us as they saw the spin, and luckily nobody was very close when it happened. Heart racing, I drove very cautiously in any lane but the left one to our destination. No one spoke for the rest of the journey. After parking, I was relieved to check the Audi’s fender and find it had snow stuck to it, but no other damage. That day was a serious lesson about what black ice can do to seemingly clear roads.
Have a better tale? Let’s hear it.
[Images: Murilee Martin/TTAC, Corey Lewis]
JimC2 on Nov 27, 2018
Just catching up with this article about two weeks late. I'm glad to see a couple sensible folks describe black ice in a sensible way- @FreedMike said something about stretches of road that never get direct sunlight, Corey's story in the article is based on being surprised by it but the context is him accepting fault for misjudging the conditions. It's probably human nature to blame "black ice" to justify one's own mistakes. It's a pet peeve of mine when people blame it, almost as if one moment the roads and weather were perfect and the next moment this supposedly invisible black ice, a seemingly sentient and evil force of mother nature, tricked an otherwise safe, responsible, above-average driver into losing control! It just doesn't work that way... If you pay close attention in the cold weather then you learn to judge the spots that tend to ice up; if you closely look at those spots as you approach them then road surface looks subtly but noticeably different. It helps a lot if you manage the car's energy and traction against things like the crown of the road, the bank of a bend in the road, uphill/downhill, and most important- other vehicles and pedestrians (if you're in the city). Judgment comes from experience and experience usually comes from mistakes. Corey et al, after reading the article and responses, if we knew each other in real life then it's a good bet that I'd trust you to borrow my vehicles in any kind of weather.
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