How To Drive In Rain, Snow and Sleet

I visit and used to live in a part of California that gets lots of all three. For the past several days up here, it has been raining (mostly), sleeting (a lot less) and snowing (just some). Go up the hill a bit, and it starts sleeting and then snowing a lot more. I have front wheel drive (really necessary for driving in that crap) but I hate putting on chains. Here, we don’t salt the roads and no one has snow tires. People put on snow chains or snow cables instead. I think that’s a royal PITA, so generally I refuse to do it. I’ll just stay home and wait until the snow melts. At this elevation, the snow never lasts long anyway. I had to drive a bit in the snow on Friday in order to get home. They had a sign saying “Chains Required” at around 1,900 feet, but there were no cops around, so I kept going. The snow was very wet and slushy, you could pretty much drive in it, and there were road tracks cleared in the snow by car tires. I drove very slowly though, and I was pretty scared. Later, driving into the housing development, you were driving on pure snow, and that was more of a mess. One thing I noticed was that 15 mph was about the proper speed for driving in pure snow with no chains. When I slowed down to 10 mph, I started to bog down in the snow. Heading up more towards 15 mph was better because then I could sort of smash through the stuff. So it looks like it is possible to drive too slow in the snow. A similar theory must hold for driving in mud, which I do as little of as possible, as it is very easy to get stuck in mud. Drive too slow, and you may just get mud-stuck. You may need to speed up a bit in the mud to smash right through it. I’ve already run my car off the road three times in the snow in Oakhurst over 15 years. You get hit with a sudden snowstorm out of the blue and you are just stuck in the mess. Or it starts snowing and you think you can make it to where you want to go but you can’t. Both times caused me some monetary damage to my vehicle. I meet folks down in the Central Valley who say, “Wow, you were up in the snow! That must be so cool!” The Hell it’s cool. I lived in the snow for 16 years. I’ve had enough of the snow for a lifetime. Snow means I can’t drive my car. Snow means I have to be careful walking around or I might slip and fall on my ass. And around here, snow usually means the power goes out, over and over. Snow has caused me $100’s in car repairs. Who needs the snow? What’s so good about it? Around here, sleet is nothing. You just drive slower than in the rain but not as slow as in the snow. I haven’t crashed yet in sleet. It’s scary, but it’s drivable. I also drove in some hail the other day. That was pretty weird. After it hails for a while, the road and scenery starts looking white like it just snowed. I slid on a hail-slicked road once, but I didn’t crash. I’ve never crashed in hail either. Hail means really slow down. On Monday, I was driving about 35-40 mph in that messy hail, and the speed limit was 55 mph. Still I got idiot after idiot piling up behind me. What about ice? Ice is truly horrible. I crashed once on ice, in January 1976 in Snoqualmie Pass in the state of Washington. You couldn’t even see it, and there wasn’t any snow along the road. I guess the road looked sort of shiny, but it wasn’t obvious. The car just turned into an amusement park ride, and next thing I knew, my buddy and I were in a ditch. We were really stoned on Thai weed, so we thought it was hilarious. Truthfully, it wasn’t all that funny. On the other side of the road, there wasn’t any ditch. There was a mountain slope. We would have headed down that thing and probably run into a tree. Ever run into a tree in a car? You don’t want to do that. No matter how fast you’re going, you’re going zero miles an hour after you hit that tree. No fun. Rain is interesting. A friend of mine said the other day, “It’s really not possible to drive too slow in the (hard) rain.” That was one of the smartest things I’ve heard in a while! How can you drive too slow in the rain? You can’t. If it’s raining, slow down, idiots! Here in California, no one knows how to drive in the rain. Californians always speed in the rain. If you drive slow and sensibly in the hard rain (that means driving about 35-40 mph), you get endless trains of clowns piling up behind you, and you have to keep pulling over to let them pass. I’ve never crashed a car in the rain, and I’ve been driving in the rain my whole life. How do you crash a car in the rain? By being an idiot. Almost everyone who crashes in the rain is driving too fast. That’s all there is to it. What if there is a puddle or a pool in the road? Shouldn’t you speed up to go through the water so you won’t get stuck in it? If it’s not that deep, probably not. Why not? Because if you drive fast through puddles, the water can splash all over your windshield,  blinding you. Much worse, it can splash all over your engine and get in your distributor cap, stalling your car. And if it’s not that deep, you won’t get stuck anyway. What if the pool is really deep? Hey, if it’s that deep, you probably shouldn’t even try to drive through it!

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