Why do the worst drivers on the road act as if they were in the gifted and talented class of driver’s ed? If there’s one area where you should have an honest assessment of your ability, it’s when you’re behind the wheel of a car.
I know I’m a decent but not great driver. For instance, I doubt I would have the split-second thinking, reflexes or the courage to successfully handle a patch of black ice by driving partially up on a concrete guardrail while the other side of my car was almost airborne and then driving off the guardrail like it was no big deal and even using my blinker as I was in mid air to signify I was changing lanes – pronto.
Yeah, I saw that last week and if I weren’t buckled in with my hands at 10 and 2 on the wheel, I would have given that driver a standing ovation. It was pure majesty in motion.
If that had been me skidding on black ice, I’d like to think I would remember to not slam on the brakes and to steer into the slide. But, in reality I’m certain I would have panicked at least a little.
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Knowing this much about myself is why when the weather is bad I usually chose to not get on the roads. I respect and fear driving in adverse weather conditions thanks to living in Texas and Nevada.
Sure, there’s no real snow in Texas and if there’s even a chance of freezing precipitation everyone goes into a panic, cleans out the grocery stores and hunkers down for the fury of mother Nature while posting bible verses from Revelations on social media.
But what Texas does get is thunderstorms so fierce that you can find yourself going from driving over a puddle to having your car swallowed whole by an impromptu lake. This happens so often that before you get your driver’s license at 16 you’re taught (and presented with an “auto escape” tool) how to break your car window in case you need to swim out of your vehicle.
When we moved to the Lake Tahoe area, driving on single-lane, curvy, mountain roads that seemed half suspended in air scared me at first. But I got used to it. What I didn’t get used to was driving on those roads when they were covered in snow. The entire five years we lived there, my rule was if I needed chains on my tires, I wasn’t leaving my house.
Sidebar – the half-decade we lived in the Sierra Nevada mountains, my kids didn’t have a single snow day! Apparently, it’s a point of mountain pride to not let any amount of snowfall affect your daily routine. I was mocked for my “Texas driving” and I didn’t care. I just wanted to make it out of there alive.
Now that I’m calling Kansas City home I’ve also noticed a distinct lack of awe and wonder at the power of the weather. Sure, we got our share of snow days but I’ve yet to see the forecast that can empty a Target parking lot. I wondered if it’s 1/3 Midwestern chutzpah, 1/3 being dubious of the local meteorologists and 1/3 just loving Target.
One thing I have observed, no matter where I lived, is in scary weather conditions it seems the worst drivers are usually the first out on the roads. Are they doing a public service and testing them for the rest of us? Are they getting paid to drive really fast on ice and snow to take the physics equation "mass X acceleration = force" for a literal spin?
Whatever the reason, all I have to say is if you're out driving when the roads could be Zambonied, I think it's time for a reality check of your skills behind the wheel.
Reach Sherry Kuehl at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook at Snarky in the Suburbs, on Twitter at @snarkynsuburbs and snarkyinthesuburbs.com