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The Suburbanite
  • Gary Brown: Slipping and sliding through a winter driving adventure

  • Growing up in western New York, where snow starts blowing in Buffalo and doesn’t stop drifting until it hits a snow fence in Syracuse, I thought I knew how to drive in the winter.

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  • Growing up in western New York, where snow starts blowing in Buffalo and doesn’t stop drifting until it hits a snow fence in Syracuse, I thought I knew how to drive in the winter.
    After watching other motorists, I can see I’ve missed a few handy techniques, such a method of driving I assume was inspired by NASCAR. If somebody wrote a country song about this technique, it would be titled “I Hope Your Car Is Wearing Snow Tires, Buster, Because I’m Bump-Drafting You Until Spring.”
    This attempt at increasing your braking ability by using the brakes in the car in front of you is so simple that I feel silly for not thinking of it. The driver of one car follows the car ahead so closely their bumpers almost touch. Even if the road turns slick and the traffic light changes at the last minute, there is no way the second car can slide into the intersection because a whole vehicle is holding him back. And there is no real risk to the front guy, either, because the push that the back car gave will likely shove him to safety before any honking cross-traffic begins to swerve and maybe glare at him.
    SPEED SAVES
    Sure, this requires cooperation between drivers that can be accomplished with angry car-to-car word mouthing and a few preliminary rude hand gestures. But, based on what I saw when it snowed the other day, traffic becomes cooperative on the streets during a storm once you get beyond the road rage.
    Some drivers, for example, start to slow down the moment the first few flakes begin falling, believing, I suppose, that it’s better to be safe than swift. The slower you drive, the safer you are, and if suddenly a 10-minute drive takes two or three hours, you’re just safer for longer. Although, there does come a point when you’re not so much safe as you are just stopped.
    Other drivers prefer to speed up, even when the snow begins to pile up on the road. If a storm starts, but nobody acknowledges it, can it called a blizzard?
    Where the Fast Driver and Slow Driver meet is what we might call the Slush Zone. Salt-melted snow sprays all over the slower car when a faster car passes it, making the first car slow down even more, ensuring his safety for the day, or maybe two, it now will take him to drive home.
    And there is no need to worry about the faster driver, either, because he’s up there by himself now, probably still in complete control of his vehicle. But we don’t care, he’s an idiot, we hope he gets stuck in a ditch.
    Page 2 of 2 - SNOW COVERED
    Finally, there is a winter driving technique that I discovered the other day when I forgot to put a snow brush and ice scraper in my car and learned that a rolled up newspaper only works for a few seconds before it gets wet and soggy.
    So, I drove home with snow and frost all over everything except the area of my windshield I was able to clear with a credit card.
    It felt cozy in there. It seemed like I was safe. It’s amazing how secure you feel — even during the worst of winter driving — when you can’t see other drivers shaking their fists at you.