It was a dark and snowy night. The high school parking lot was deserted except for a 1976 Ford Granada turning doughnut after doughnut to Pearl Jam’s Ten. It was the first real snow of the season, and as a new driver, Mom and Dad wanted me to learn how to recover if I lost control on an icy road. It was scary at first, but I’ve been grateful ever since that I eventually got the hang of it.
Winter driving is like most of the stuff we do – with practice, patience, and common sense, you can do it! Here are a few things you can do to get up to your favorite mountain safely:
Use caution when following, passing or approaching snow removal equipment.
Drive a safe distance behind snowplows. Plows often travel slower than other vehicles to remove snow, apply sand and liquid anti-icers and assist stranded vehicles.
Before attempting to pass snow removal equipment, check direction of snow discharge to avoid snow and debris thrown from equipment. Remember that plows are wider than most vehicles and portions of the plow and blade may be obscured by blowing snow.
Don’t crowd the plow. Only pass snow removal vehicles when a safe, legal passing area is available and adequately clear of snow and/or treated with salt and sand.
Don’t travel beside a snowplow. They can shift sideways after hitting snow packs or drifts. Plows also are not able to automatically stop sanding when other vehicles pass. Therefore, sand may unintentionally hit vehicles if not driven a proper distance from snow removal equipment.
When a plow approaches you, allow the plow room to operate by reducing speed and moving to the right side of the road if there is room to safely do so.
Do not brake with unnecessary sudden movements when in front of a snowplow – plows cannot stop as quickly as an automobile.
Don’t drive through white out conditions caused by swirling snow around a snowplow. Safely pull to the side or slow to allow visibility to improve.
Remember that a snowplow operator’s field of vision is restricted. You may see them, but they may not see you.
The advantage in a mountain town is that we know how to clear snow from the roads. While a few inches can immobilize a coastal community, here at Lake Tahoe, we bring out the heavy equipment. Snow removal vehicles work around the clock to keep the roads clear and safe for travel. Keep in mind, the main roads will be cleared first, then the secondary roads and neighborhoods.
And, if despite your best efforts, you do find yourself in a slide, let off your brakes. Your ABS could lock up your wheels. Turn your wheels in the direction that the rear of your car is sliding. Remember to breathe.
Be safe, and have fun this winter!
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