Monday, January 10, 2011

Welcome to Colorado. Now, Act Like You've Seen Snow Before

Starting early yesterday, Denver started getting lots of that fluffy white stuff that tends to fall in the winter months in the northern hemisphere above the Tropic of Cancer tends to see from time to time. The farther north you go, the more you will experience. OK. So we're clear. Colorado gets snow. The city doesn't get as much as the mountains, but since we do see the mountains, we can gather what it looks like.

Some of you in those Southern states freak out when you get snow, and rightfully so. You have ice and sleet that make the roads super slick and a city infrastructure that doesn't have the snow plows by comparison that other snow laden destinations put together. We get it. You get one inch of snow and EVERYONE and their mother gets a snow day. No need to rub it in.

Anyway, this snow storm however, was not anything that was approaching a foot, was not something that came on so fast that it crippled the ability to keep up with the rate of falling flakes, and we don't live in a city where the sanitation workers have a "sick-out" as a protest to muck up city operations. Rather, we have lots o' plows, lots o' sand, and lots o' mag chloride. And since this is maybe the second significant snow of the season, Denver has this covered.

What Denver residents don't have covered though are their abilities to handle a little bit of slipping.

Even though I learned to drive in the snow, I have driven in it for more than a decade, and it has been a whole lot worse and I've been in crappier (not in niceness, just in their ability to regain traction) cars than I have now, but it never ceases to amaze the stupidity that people possess when it snows.

  • Just because you drive an SUV/Truck/AWD vehicle, doesn't mean that you should be flying down streets. You will have to stop eventually, and you can't control other yahoos who pull out in front of you or lose control. I'm not saying go 5 mph all the time, but just go less than the speed limit.
  • That brings me to those yahoos that pull out in front of other cars and go 5 mph. Just because on dry conditions the space that you allowed  yourself is adequate does not mean that you have adequate abilities to get going, have traction, or cause accidents. Allow for more space, but don't go 5 mph. I'm not saying that you should be trying to reach the speed limit, but your overly cautious nature with speed with infuriate and make the jack holes mentioned about act more idiotic. It's a vicious cycle, but we should all be aware and try to stop it.
  • Just because you can't see the lines on the pavement doesn't mean that you get to make your own lane. You drive the same route to work every day. You have probably figured out some spatial distances to landmarks and other cars on the road to roughly guess lane placements. No, this four-lane road doesn't change from four to two and a half to three within two blocks. It's always four. If you're unsure, hug one of the shoulders and you can bet you're in one lane.
  • When merging with traffic, try not to brake, just ease up on the gas. Just as much as you're trying to get momentum, there are other cars behind you trying to do the same. So, you'll have to find that line between accelerating to the stupid levels that will make you have to brake hard, fish tail, swerve and cause heart attacks and not being able to get going. You should be able to feel the inertia in your body, car, and brake pedal, so listen to it.
  • Along the same lines, try not to brake on up hill climbs. When you have forward momentum, slowing is OK, but coming to a stop on a hill will make other cars behind you lose theirs and might even cause sliding. If you feel that you're losing traction, kick your car into a lower gear. And automatics, you're not excluded from this. You have the ability to knock your transmission into a specific gear. Just watch your RPMs to determine if you need to go up a gear. You'll feel what works.
  • Even if the snow isn't falling anymore, take some extra precautions before getting into your car and driving. NO MATTER WHAT, drive with your lights on. Not the daytime running lights, not your parking lights, but your headlights and taillights. When people drive in snow, it can kick up snow and make it like a white out from wind. Along with that, when you clear off your car, clear off your tail lights and head lights. You'd be surprised how much snow diffuses light and makes it hard to actually see that you are braking. And while we're talking about clearing off your car, try to take some of that snow off the roof. You'll thank me when your rear window doesn't get covered in snow after you just wiped the window down and the travelers behind you will appreciate that you didn't want to make more snow fly at them.
  • A lot of people will complain that they didn't really see any snow plows on the roads during rush hour. Well, let's think about this for a moment. If a plow is going 5 mph along the road with you, how much snow can it be moving if it has to brake and start all the time with you? Not to mention, they can't spray mag chloride or salt because you would bitch about the paint-eating, windshield chipping prevention measures. Plows need some steady speeds above 10 mph to do any good. As for the side streets, just know that your neighborhood is not a primary or even secondary road. Deal with it. Unless you have one expensive home owners association, it ain't gettin' plowed for awhile. Also, just because you drive that road every day doesn't mean that the road is the busiest in the city. 
  • You don't have to take the interstate. You might actually find that you have faster speeds and cleaner roads on the side roads. There are some that will always have city plows working and the lights are timed so that you're not having to stop all the time losing that aforementioned momentum. Explore your options on your drive home. Just try to avoid the interstate and you'll probably notice less snow rage.
Basically, let's all realize that unless you want to have a heart attack, you need to be prudent on your speeds and distances between cars. It will take longer to stop and longer to get going which translates into a longer commute. If you fishtail or start to slide, don't slam on your brakes, just take you foot off the accelerator and try to correct yourself. If you're not comfortable with recovering from a fish tail, go practice in a big open parking lot or get someone else to drive you. Use all of your cars features. Everything I mentioned is required by law, so you can't tell me that you can't manually turn on your lights or choose a gear. Oh, and lay off the cursing of the plows, there's not a whole lot they can do with all these yahoos and jack holes clogging up the roads.

Take your time today, people, suck it up, and realize that it's not the first time it's snowed in Denver and it's definitely not the last, so either deal with it or move.


  1. AMEN sista! People are so dumb. A mom almost slid her SUV into mine this morning in the drop off lane at school. Hello! When you are on a sheet of ice, don't slam on the brake! This is why I try not to get out if I don't have to. It's not me I'm worried about, it's everyone else.

  2. wow!!! And I thought NY got it bad... xxxoo