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Press Pass
By Tim Wiederaenders
Daily Courier Editor Tim Wiederaenders shares his insights.
Friday, December 02, 2011

Blog: How's your driving?

 By Tim Wiederaenders, editor

Photos.com images

We hear it all the time: people around here don't know how to drive. It especially happens every time it snows - accidents and cars in the ditch.

Well, it's snowing.

What a lot of people do not realize is that Arizona is a state of transplants. Sure, the state has its natives (read: people born here) and, even, those who have lived here enough of their lives to be considered natives (those whose parents brought them here at ages far younger than they could drive).

Simply put, the "natives" have two things unique about them: they did not bring bad habits from elsewhere, but they do not have much experience in cold- or wet-weather situations. The transplants, uhh ... well, they bring their bad habits with them and not all of them have wet-weather experience either.

I have been a resident of Arizona since 1991. But, I grew up in Denver and learned to drive on ice and snow-packed parking lots and back roads. (I will never forget driving through a snow-laden Albertson's on a weekend morning and bending one of the rims on the car when I found the "bumps" in the snow were actually parking blocks.)

Like many of you, a lot of my experience in snow was learned - the hard way. The key to success has always been going slow with a weighted-down back end (I've always had a truck). And, in all of those years, I've had no weather-related accidents and gotten stuck only once (high-centered after sliding off a mountain road one foot too far to the right).

I have learned a few things along the way (some of these are thanks to a recent Courier story on the subject):

• Always be prepared for bad weather (bring tools, water, extra coats, gloves and blankets).

• When in doubt, stay home or get home. If going somewhere, leave extra early so you do not have to rush.

• Wait for the ice or snow to melt.

• Keep a charged cell phone with you.

• Check on the latest winter road conditions by calling 511, or visiting www.AZ511.gov, and should only dial 911 for emergencies.

• Tell others about your route and when you expect to arrive at your destination.

• Speed limits are based on dry, clear roadways. Drive slow enough for the conditions.

• If you break down, stay with your vehicle.

• Leave extra stopping distance between you and the intersection, your turn and/or the car in front of you. I just heard about an accident at Pioneer Parkway and Williamson Valley Road - a five-car pileup!!!

• Have an "Oh (darn)" kit in the vehicle, including first-aid supplies, snacks, etc. (Ask the guys at the Off The Grid Survival Store in Prescott for advice on making one; 928-458-5151.)

• And, finally, four-wheel-drive does not matter on ice. Seriously.

Now, look at these tips again. Not all of them have anything to do with driving. It's called common sense. Don't leave home without it.

Now it's your turn: what tips would you offer the driving public?

Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, December 10, 2011
Article comment by: S Campis

I don't know if it is overconfidence I have but mostly the knowledge of how to drive in the mess. Not once in my 29 years of driving in this area in snow and ice have I ever slid off the road or caused another to slide. I live in Prescott Valley and have had to drive to Prescott to get to work. I drive 25 miles an hour to Prescott in measurable snow, stay home when the authorities deem highway 69 unsafe except for chains or 4-wheel, pump my brakes, keep my tank full. @ @ Campis-this area used to get 8, 9 and more inches easy back in the old days. I don't know if it's global warming, but we no longer receive snow like that. I remember growing up in Prescott in the 70's and receiving lots of snow all the time. Then, snow days from school were regular and for good reason. Nowadays, so many people have moved into the outlying mountainous areas that school buses have a hard time picking up kids on lousy roads. And I have the native ego because I can back it up.

Posted: Tuesday, December 06, 2011
Article comment by: Yukon Jack

Four wheel drive DOES make a difference, but I agree it DOES NOT eliminate the problems of ice and snow. Again, it only reduces them... somewhat.

Posted: Tuesday, December 06, 2011
Article comment by: Cordes Coyote

Try Flagstaff some year. I didn't think so either before I moved, but it turns out that there is a BIG difference between Prescott snow and Flagstaff snow. In Prescott, the problem really and truly is the drivers.

Bad drivers will cause accidents in less than an inch of snow, so be careful out there!

Posted: Tuesday, December 06, 2011
Article comment by: Drive GENTLY

Safe driving on slick surfaces of any kind, be it ice, rain-surfaced oil or just wet, is more a matter of driving gently than just of road speed.

Driving slowly is certainly advisable, but do not attempt to do ANYTHING abruptly, whether it be steering, braking or accelerating. Inertia rules.

Well over a million miles 58 years behind the wheel in some pretty rough climates including New England and Greenland, and zero accidents (so far).

Posted: Monday, December 05, 2011
Article comment by: @ Campis

I too learned to drive in Denver. You cite experience of driving in snow and ice in 1987 here in Prescott. You have probably driven in white-knuckle situations a dozen or so times in your life, maybe once a year at most. In Denver, that happens a dozen or so times every winter. Your comment shows the native ego and overconfidence we all have to deal with. Humble thyself and SLOW DOWN.

Posted: Saturday, December 03, 2011
Article comment by: Cheese Burger

TURN ON YOUR LIGHTS!!!!!! Use Directionals! Daytime lights do no good for the person behind you. There were alot of "Ghosts" out there today. :(

Posted: Saturday, December 03, 2011
Article comment by: common sense

@Button Square Pants, you have no idea what you are talking about. Driving in snow is not a problem for most, but true ice on the roads is uncontrollable without studded tires or chains at any reasonable speed. The roads in the Prescott area don't get much ice at all to deal with.

Posted: Saturday, December 03, 2011
Article comment by: S Campis

I learned to drive on snow and ice right here in Prescott where our snow and ice are probably just the same as they are in Denver. In fact, I drove through about 1ft and a half of snow to get to work near the airport in 1987 when we had the big snow storm. Some areas received nearly 3ft of snow. I consider myself to be a good snow/ice driver who could survive in Wisconsin or Denver.

Posted: Saturday, December 03, 2011
Article comment by: Just Saying

Been in three accidents, two within blocks of each other on Willow Creek, in each of them the other driver was cited. Also turned out each of them was from, big SURPRISE, Arizona. The best part, one of them was a judge, the other two were just driving HUA. You didn't need two of your paragraphs to make your point. To hear the locals brag about driving skills only makes me laugh, or make me increase my auto coverage.
Since you're providing driving tips please add know what your vehicle is really designed for.
Take the time to clear the snow off your whole CAR not just the windshield.
Assume the other guy doesn't have all wheel drive and the conditions your driving in are NOT on a closed course with other professional drivers.

Posted: Saturday, December 03, 2011
Article comment by: Button Square Pants

I could do a hundred miles an hour on these roads in a foot of snow with no problems at all, taking turns faster in the snow than most people dare to do in dry weather... however, my experience racing in the snow does not mean that I will actually do that. All I'm trying to say is that it is possible to control your car when it snows and gets icy, you just have to use common sense and don't take risks. If you're not sure, then drive with extra caution and leave plenty of room to make evasive action if needed. It's usually the one's who are next to you who cause the accident, don't be one of them.

By the way, in all my 24 years of driving in the snow, I've NEVER had a single accident, never high centered my car or ran myself off the road.

Posted: Friday, December 02, 2011
Article comment by: Morgan James Bensenhaver

If you start sliding on an icy road, do NOT touch the brakes. Steer in the direction of the skid and don't oversteer. The military pounded that into our heads for 20 years and it has saved me from disaster more than once in my life.

It's bad enough that people tailgate you in clear, dry weather, but doing it on an icy road is asking for some serious trouble. Give yourself at least 1 car length for every 10 miles of the speed you're driving at all times. It takes a LOT longer to stop than you think.

Posted: Friday, December 02, 2011
Article comment by: Reed Winfrey

Drive only in conditions that 4 of your friends think you are capable of driving in, not the conditions that you think you're capable of driving in.
Everyone, (yes me too) has someone that loves them and want's them to return safely so please don't let them down.
Be sure your vehicle is capable of making the trip safely. Tire pressure, wiper blades, antifreeze (for the car not for you), and carry an extra blanket or two in your car. Snacks can help build body heat so have enough for everyone.
To sum it all up ask yourself,,, If I do (whatever) is someone going to see me and say, "what an idiot". Then don't do that.

Posted: Friday, December 02, 2011
Article comment by: Slipping and sliding

Good tips! Going slow has gotten me out of few scary moments before.

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