A few nights ago, I drove one of my daughter’s friends home after a day of cookie baking and watching a movie. It had started to sleet in Columbus before we headed out. We didn’t venture far onto I-71 South when I started to think, big mistake. There were flashing lights on both I-71 and I-70 from car wrecks in each direction.
When I pulled off on our exit ramp and onto the road, there were emergency vehicles and personnel attending to another wreck on the overpass, just a few feet from where I was maneuvering our car. Down the street I could see more flashing lights. A policeman motioned for me to roll down my window. “Be careful,” he said. “Go slow. There are a lot of wrecks out here.”
His words weren’t necessary, but calming somehow. He sounded like a deeper voiced version of my mother. With my children bundled in the backseat and my daughter’s friend in the passenger seat, I wasn’t in a hurry. Adding to the mayhem was not on my agenda.
Despite my careful efforts, I slid all the way across another overpass, although, I didn’t skid. I could feel that the tires weren’t gripping the road at all. “Shit,” I said under my breath, proud that I didn’t say worse.
On the way home, we skidded over another overpass, this time right between a car wreck, seconds after the two cars collided to our left and another car skidded to our right.
“You’re doing fine, Mom,” my daughter said from the backseat, as I said, “Oh, oh, oh, oh,” and tried not to flinch us into our own wreck.
After deciding to avoid the highway and travel the side streets, figuring that if anyone hit us, at least it would be at a slower speed, I took the highway the last mile and a half. It was a mistake. Cars fly on the highway in Ohio in all kinds of weather. It’s mind boggling. Really. We saw one car on the opposite side off the highway slide off the road and head down the embankment. Luckily, it stopped and didn’t flip.
Tonight, it was the same type of weather, although before it became too bad, we were home. With driving conditions treacherous, here are some tips for driving when the roads are slick. They worked for me. I was paying attention and followed them for a change.
Here is what helped me avoid having a wreck:
- I kept a very large distance between my car and any car in front–at least triple what I normally do. When the wreck happened to my left, this helped me reach a slower speed so I could pass by.
- Don’t break if you start to feel like you are beginning to hydroplane. Keep calm and keep the wheel straight and steady. I was hydroplaning past that wreck, but kept going.
- I started to slow down way before I reached an intersection in order to make sure I could stop, almost without braking. To brake, I tapped on them gently several times to avoid any strong movement.
- The whole time, I kept alert to what was going on around me. This helped me feel like I had control which helped me stay calm. Mind you, I wasn’t totally calm, but it could have been worse.
- My original plan to avoid busy roads was sound. Avoid highways if you can. I was so sorry that I took the highway for the short distance that I did. I was so happy we only had a few exits to go to more safety.
When we arrived back home, 45 minutes after setting out on our icy adventure, I had a glass of wine and counted my blessings. Next time a friend is over and it’s icy out, we’re not going anywhere. There’s plenty of room for a sleepover.
For more driving on ice tips, including the one on what to do if you do start to skid, check out “How to Drive on Icy Roads” at eHow: How to Do About Everything.