Feral Charge [Car]

Non-WoW related post today. Skip if you like, but I recommend you take a look at what I have to say. It’s a guide of sorts, and yes I’m putting it on my sidebar.

I’ve got readers from all over the place who I’m sure have family that live all over the place. Holiday season is here and chances are you’ll be driving around. What I’m going to share with you is what I’ve learned about driving in awful weather.

Some History:

I grew up in a small rural town. My first experiences driving involved my Grandfather’s truck and a hayfield. At thirteen I was fetching the car for my parents from the parking lot at Sunday Church. At 15 I began drivers education through my High School but didn’t get around to actually getting my license until I was most of the way towards 17. I took my official test for my license amid heavy blowing snow and passed with flying colors (yes even the paralell parking bit).

At 18 I moved to Chicago for college and learned what city driving was like. (It’s kinda like tanking, you want to max out your avoidance and always be alert). The thing about driving in Chicago is everyone tailgates. If you’re not tailgating someone you’re going to get cut off. Some other idiot is going to speed up on the side of you doing 90-something and swerve in front of you. It sucks, and it only perpetuates the problem. So in Chicago I learned to be alert and defensive in my driving.

Chicago gets a lot of snow, but in the city and the suburbs you don’t learn diddly about driving in adverse conditions. See, there’s a veritable army of snow ploughs and salt trucks that are deployed at the meerest hint of a snowflake. The roads are kept pretty much constantly clear. Unfortunately the ridiculous amount of salt on the roads will rot the bottom out of your car before you can blink, but at least you aren’t going to careen into a ditch because of hard-packed ice.

It wasn’t until I moved a bit east, after college that I learned what winter can truly do.

Some Stats:

I drive a 2000 Saturn SW2. For you non-car-types that’s a little Saturn Station Wagon with those new-fangled fiberglass dent-proof sides. Well, they’re not so new-fangled anymore, and not even in production.

Why?

For a station wagon, my car is cursed light.

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee? Well, I’ve got the floating part down. Under the right conditions I’ll float right off the road.

And I have.

Often.

Some Strategy:

First and foremost, as a convicted speeder, I want to tell each and every one of you that if you’re not driving on a dry, warm road, agressive driving won’t get you there faster, it’ll get you there dead. In my state we have a slogan about drunk driving “Arraive Alive”. This works for driving safely under adverse conditions as well.

I’m going to start from kinda bad, and work my way up to conditions that are simply impassable.

Medium Rain:

The important thing to know about rain is that it washes things. This might sound obvious, but let me explain.

During the course of cars and trucks using the roads they put off pollutants. These can be exhaust, oil from the engines, scum that falls off the bottom, dirt, even agricultural run-off contributes to the gunk that’s on the roads. When everything’s dry and warm this really isn’t a problem. Tires get good traction and everything is safe.

When it starts to rain, however, these road pollutants are loostened from the road and mix with the water that is now on the road. Anyone who’s washed dishes can tell you that oil will float on the top of water. This creates a very dangerous surface to drive on, and makes conditions ideal for hydroplaining.

Note: About the first 15 minutes of rain are the most dangerous. After the first 15 minutes most of the road scum has been washed away and you only have to worry about the water, not the combination of oil and water.

  • Hydroplaining: If you’re not sure you’ve ever felt it you probably haven’t. It’s a very curious feeling and one that makes my insides knot and my pulse race every time it happens. As you’re driving, no matter how nice your car, there will be some road vibration. When you start to hydroplane your car is actually ‘surfing’ on top of the skin of water that’s on the road. All vibration ceaces and handling decreases to almost none.
    • What to do: First and foremost, take your foot off the gas. DO NOT slam on the brake, DO NOT make any sudden turns. While hydroplaining your car is NOT under control. Inertia is in charge here and it will keep you going straight (or slightly to the side if there’s a lot of wind). In most cases, once you stop applying forward motion gravity and friction will take over to slow you down and you will regain contact with the road. It’s important to not slam on the brakes either. Some tires may be in contact while others are still skidding. If one tire has traction and brakes it’ll act as an anchor and you could very well skid out of control. So, If you feel yourself Hydroplane, take your foot off the gas and coast until you feel your car reconnect with the road.

Heavy Rain:

Same story as medium rain, except there’s a lot more of it. Visibility will be awful and you have to watch out for ‘curtains’. Btw, if you don’t have your lights on, what’s wrong with you? Even if it’s raining in the middle of the day, even if it’s just a medium shower TURN ON YOUR LIGHTS! In rain during the day they’re not there to help you see better, they’re there to allow other motorists to see you. I almost killed myself driving in rain once because I came up on a silver car going 40 without his lights on. I could not see him until I was almost on top of him.

So, about those curtains I mentioned. In really heavy rain, more common with lots of wind, rain doesn’t fall evenly. There will be clear patches and there will be heavy patches, and there will be curtains; places where the rain comes down in a sheet so thickly that you can’t see through it. It looks like a wall in front of you. Simply slow down, and be alert. If you have your lights on, and everyone else has theirs on you’ll be fine, but be alert for idiots that think because it’s the middle of the day, no matter how heavy the rain, they don’t need their lights.

And that’s it for rain! Snow is a WHOLE other animal too, I’ll be expanding this guide in the future, but for the sake of getting this out and maybe helping someone here ye be 🙂

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