Saturday, February 23, 2008

Danger on the Highway

When driving, my motto is: Always assume the other driver is going to do something stupid. Now, this motto is normally applied to drivers at intersections but yesterday I discovered I have to assume this everywhere. While coming home on the interstate yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the highway was merely wet and a bit slushy at spots (we have had some moderate snows and ice over the last couple days). So, here I am passing an 18-wheeler at casual highway speed when I notice the truck start to drift into my lane. This kind of thing happens when windy so I at first assumed this was the case here. Not so! Apparently, the driver didn't notice I was next to him and was bringing his rig into my lane. There was little to do except brake and try to squeeze into the space between the passing lane and the concrete median.

Unfortunately, given the recent snows, that space I was entering was a packed nightmare of snow, gravel, and who knows what else. Of course, my braking only caused me to lose control of the car and I began to slide toward the concrete median with little hope of correcting my course. When I did hit something, it turned out to be the snow packed there which diverted me back toward the passing lane. But my braking was now causing some fish-tailing action and I suddenly remembered that you were supposed to pump the brakes while sliding. My foot came off the brake and I immediately had more control. By this time, the trucker realized what had happened and was already parking off the highway ahead to the right. After coasting a bit for a van to pass by me, I regained solid road and, after determining that the car was still driving OK, proceeded home. The trucker was stopped and looking out his window but I didn't want to tempt the fates by stopping and chatting along the busy interstate so I passed him by.

There was a bit of shimmying going on with the front driver side wheel but I made it home without further incident. Looking at the tire, I noticed that my run-in with the snow pack had sheared a thin 2-inch area off right above the hubcap. To make sure all was well, I went immediately to a local tire place to have them check it out. The guy there said that, often with vehicles forced off the road into snow or mud, material is shoved under the wheel well and affects the tire balance. That's probably what happened and was easily corrected. Twenty dollars and less than 10 minutes later I was back in action with just that little scar as a reminder that you really must expect other drivers are going to do something stupid.

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