Friday, January 20, 2012

LMS's Winter Driving Tips Revisited

Given that Chicago has enjoyed an historically snow-free winter until this past week and as I type this we're in the middle of receiving a 9-inch snowfall, it seems that many of you have forgotten how to drive in inclement weather, at least as exhibited by those of you on the roads during my 10-minute-turned-30-minute commute home today.

Let's revisit how to drive in snow, shall we?

Originally published February 1, 2011.

You may have heard that we're supposed to get a little snow in Chicago today/tonight/tomorrow. To help you survive Snowmageddon 2011, Little Merry Sunshine offers the following driving tips:


That's right. Don't drive. Stay inside and keep warm.

Oh, and if you're coupled up inside, you may want to schedule an appointment with your OB-GYN for about 9 months from now and also reserve a room in your favorite maternity ward. Your doctor is likely to have a backlog of appointments with no rooms available in the inn (or hospital).

On a serious note, if you must leave the house to drive anywhere, keep these tips in mind:

1. It's illegal to drive with your wipers on and your headlights off. Even if you can see, your headlights make it easier for others to see you.

2. Have a full tank of gas and plenty of wiper fluid.

3. Drive slower and leave extra space between you and other cars. Better to arrive late than not at all.

4. Stay off your cell phone., but carry it with you and make sure it's fully charged. Actually, this is a good idea even in good weather.

5. Have an emergency kit in your car: cat litter or salt, a shovel, snow scraper, a warm blanket or two, extra gloves, hat and socks, jumper cables, snacks, bottled water and activities for the kids. My emergency kit is in my backseat.

The bottom line for blizzard driving is to drive defensively, have patience, and don't be a jerk.
Additional tips:

6. Scrape off your entire car. It doesn't take more than a few minutes and clearing the snow off your roof means it won't land on my windshield. Removing it from your headlights and brake lights mean others can see you better. Cleaning your mirrors mean you'll see others better. By the time you've got the whole car cleaned off, your car will be warmed up and you'll get into a toasty car. Win. Win.

7. Make sure your car is in safe operating condition. This means checking your brakes, the tread on your tires, and keeping tires properly inflated. I know brakes and tires are expensive. I just put new brakes on my car. But new brakes are considerably less expensive than your insurance deductible when they go out on you and you plow into someone else. I highly recommend Busse Auto in Mt. Prospect for all auto work. They've taken care of my cars for almost 10 years and Mark Busse is one of the most honest, ethical people I've ever known. I'll use them forever. Use my name.

8. Be patient. Everyone else on the road in is the same situation you're in and they want to reach their destinations just as badly as you do. Don't be the asshole on the road. Getting upset will only make your drive worse.

9. Get off the roads when conditions are too bad. You're not the postal service having to live up to the inscription on the James Farley Post Office in New York: "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." Last summer when I was driving home from Watervale, I encountered one of the worst storms I'd ever driven through. Had I been standing still, it probably wouldn't have been so bad, but the combination of wind and speeding cars made it all but impassable. I didn't pull off the road, but my dad did. I remember sweating from stress as my hands were gripped to the steering wheel. Once I got through the storm, I wished I'd pulled over. That risk wasn't worth the time I "saved" by driving on.

10. If you get stuck in your car in the snow, stay in your car, but keep your tail pipe cleaned out. The deadly carbon monoxide fumes can get into your car if the tail pipe is blocked by snow or ice. When you've got the car on, crack the window just a little to keep poisonous gases out of the car. Clear off your headlights and taillights so rescuers can see you. And, of course, call the police.

11. Bottom line: Use good judgment and common sense. If you lack one, the other, or both, think about what you should do and do the opposite.

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