The Commute

An informative and entertaining discussion on our ferries and highways with Kitsap Sun reporters.
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I can drive better in the snow than you can

February 25th, 2011 by ed friedrich

Only 16 percent of Washington drivers are significantly concerned about driving in the snow, according to a poll released by PEMCO Insurance. They might not be concerned about their driving, but I am. This fits right in with the feud that  took place among commenters on one of our recent snow stories. There were people who said they were great snow drivers because they’re from somewhere else where it snows alot. Locals shot back that our snow is more slippery than your snow.

Then people chimed in that they weren’t going to drive. They’re mountain men who cut cords of wood and had generators and guns so they didn’t have to go anywhere. One guy told somebody to go back to mamby pamby land.

Anyway, back to the poll. Fifty-eight percent of Washington drivers say they’re comfortable driving in the snow and are safter at it than other drivers. PEMCO thought there would be a lot more people like its “First Snowflake Freakout Lady.” Men can drive in the snow, at least according to 77 percent of them. Only 45 percent of women say they feel comfortable doing it.

According to the poll, only one-third of Washington drivers carry chains (I used to have some) and only 44 percent have ever installed chains (Did it a few times; hate it. Seems like it’s always cold and wet when you need them). Of those 44 percent, 67 percent are men and just 28 percent women.

The bottom line, PEMCO says, is it’s safest just to stay off the roads. Plus, they won’t have to pay out so many claims.

My worst experience was driving to work years ago. There was a ton of snow on the road and it was sloppy. I was on Highway 16 between Burley-Olalla and Mullenix when this flatbed truck blasted past me in the fast lane. He had a slush roostertail like Miss Bardahl and most of it went on my windshield. Couldn’t see a thing. Suddenly I’m spinning. I’m driving backward, looking at the cars coming up behind me. I keep spinning and lodge in a snowbank. Luckily, I didn’t even have to get out of the car. I rocked it back and forth a few times and escaped, with my heart thumping. Wound up with a flat tire, but that’s it.

I was going to tell you a few more, but that’s enough for now.

3 Responses to “I can drive better in the snow than you can”

  1. Sharon O'Hara Says:

    Well. I used to love driving in the snow and I drove everywhere I could find an excuse to go. I’d pick up coworkers for work – it was exhilarating fun.

    Until what should have been just another run for the kids and me to sled a good hill off Bucklin Hill. I was absorbed in the conversation and my kids sudden yell, “You’re missing the turn – turn, turn!”
    And I saw I was going to pass the snow sledding left turn…clicked my left turn blinkers on and almost immediately braked and swung the wheel left.

    I can still feel the Buick slide sideways out of control and the out of control momentum gently slid us in the ditch.

    Never realized what a noisy bunch of kids I had until that moment in the ditch and the stark silence that followed.
    Sharon O’Hara

  2. travis baker Says:

    I, too, learned the hard way. Back in the ’60s when I worked at the Bremerton radio station, I was on my way to Bremerton during a snowfall, and felt the driver ahead of me was being too timid. Just past Ross Point between Port Orchard and Gorst, I pulled out to pass and immediately lost traction. I believe I did a full 360-degree spin and a half, crashing backward into the ditch on the land side of the highway.
    I can still count the ways I was lucky. No traffic was coming toward me, I had a bad bruise on my butt, from the seat belt I had been sitting on, I might have landed in the bay had I gone off the other side of the road, and I can almost feel the facial scars I would have suffered had I gone into the ditch head first. In those day. that road had six-foot deep ditches on the land side.
    The tow truck driver who came to pull my Chevy ex-police car out of the ditch knew me from my work as a radio newsman and had a good chuckle at my expense. My poor car wound up in the wrecking yard.

  3. Jon Osterberg Says:

    I’m enjoying the discussion about driving in the snow (especially the reference to Miss Bardahl, my all-time favorite hydroplane). I work for PEMCO and oversee marketing communications, and yes, when there’s significant snowfall we recommend you think hard about whether you really need to drive that day. It’s a safety issue — we don’t mind paying claims; that’s why you buy insurance.

    At the risk of getting razzed by my friends from colder climates, let me share a few reasons why snow in Western Washington truly can paralyze us:

    - Infrequent snow = infrequent practice at driving in snow = less skill.
    - We often have wet, slippery snow that falls around 32-35 degrees, not colder dry snow that affords better traction.
    - We have many hills.
    - We’re surrounded by water, presenting many traffic bottlenecks.
    - Less snowfall = less snow-removal equipment.

    A word of caution, from one 4WD owner to the others: 4WD is great for starting forward in snow and ice, but it does nothing to help you stop. Overconfidence can virtually turn a 4WD into a 4,000-lb. hockey puck.

    Thanks!
    Jon Osterberg