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December 22, 2010

Winter Driving Tips

After driving in the "third snowiest December in Minnesota" - or whatever it is now - I decided to do a quick run down of some winter driving tips. Now of course there are the classics, like "slow down" and "be more cautious," but I wanted to focus more on some specifics.

1. Don't try to chance it. While it may be a good idea in the summer, not so much now. First of all, is it really worth it? I'd say I've almost rammed into the side of a dozen cars so far this winter. It goes like this: I'm minding my own business driving down the road. A car pulls out from a gas station and looks my way and sees me coming. They hesitate. Then they think they should gun it, even though there are no cars behind me, or any cars coming the other way. They step on the gas only to spin out and come into my lane about half way. I have a heart attack, and slam on my breaks and slide towards them. We both end up coming to a stop. I look at them like, "WTF" and they look back at me like I'm crazy. Seriously, just wait two more seconds and let me pass and you can quietly go on your way.

2. Leave enough room to stop. Pretty simple rule, but some people love to tail gate. I think most Minnesota drivers understand this concept in the winter, but its the 10% of the population who have just moved here from California or something that think its a great idea to ride my ass by half a car length. It's just not productive, because its not going to get me to ride the person in front of me. Plus, when you ram into me, you're 100% responsible for the accident.

3. The rules of the road still apply. What is it about winter storm driving that makes people think they don't need to obey traffic lights, stop signs, and intersections? I think half the problem with the traffic when it snows is that the natural flow of lights is disrupted because people just keep driving whenever they feel like it. And then cars just sit in intersections, forcing the other lanes to sit and wait even though they have a green light. As for stop signs, people don't want to stop because they might not get going again. However, when I'm driving along minding my own business and instead of stopping, you roll through your stop sign and almost T-bone me, I think it would just be best for everyone if you stop.

4. Call a cab. I love that the Twin Cities is a great biking city, I really do. Its just that when I'm driving along in 7 inches of snow in a blizzard and you're riding your bike, I just worry about the chance that your little bike tires will slip out from under you and you'll slide under my car. Then I'm bogged down in some police investigation because you just couldn't let your bike go for one day. Since this will never change, I will go as slow and go as far around you as possible. So if you're driving behind me, you'll just have to wait because I don't want to run over a biker.

5. Get four wheel drive. One thing this winter and last winter has taught me is that my next vehicle purchase will have four wheel drive. I don't care about gas mileage, or any of that; I need at least one vehicle that can get through a winter storm.

6. Watch for pedestrians along Grand Avenue. For some reason in Saint Paul, the pedestrians think that they can still run out in front of cars and they'll stop for them. That works perfect in the summer, but in the winter, I literally cannot stop in time. Sorry, but you're just going to have to go to the lights, or wait until there's an appropriate break in traffic. I've almost run down at least 10 people that feel like bolting out from behind snow banks or cars, just to get a cup of crappy coffee at Cafe' Latte. Driving on Grand Avenue in the snow is like running the gauntlet.

7. Assume a car is coming. So now with the snow banks so high, its sometimes hard to see if another car is coming. And I've noticed that most people just pull out, realize they can't see if a car is coming from the normal spot where they stop, so instead of creeping out and looking and looking some more, they just assume its all clear. Just assume that a giant semi-truck is going to ram into you the moment you pull out.

Drive safe!

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