Snow is Scary

Albert Burneko is a fool and the epitome of toxic masculinity.

I generally don’t try to link to fools to tell you how foolish they are being, but this is a link I can’t resist.

The best practices for snow-driving are, basically, the same as the best practices for dry-driving, only with the conservatism turned up 25 percent. Follow them, and they will lead you home—which is where you, and apparently none of the other bozos on the road, intend to get, sometime before the stars burn out.

This is terrible advice that will get you killed. Driving 25% more conservatively might be acceptable advice for someone who is driving after a light drizzle as described by Edmunds:

On wet pavement, total braking time increases from 4.6 seconds to 6.1 seconds, and total braking distance shoots up from 271 feet to 333 feet.

They continue:

In snowy conditions, even with snow tires, total stopping time jumps to 10.6 seconds and 533 feet.

I don’t know what Edmunds means by “snowy conditions”. If there is a fresh inch of snow on the ground and the ground is still warm, my car is heavy enough to compact it and still make contact with the ground underneath. It’s still much worse than rain, but at least I’m not snow-planing. It’s fine.

A couple few inches, however, are sometimes sufficient to prevent my vehicle from ever making direct contact with the road. My ability to change momentum is dictated by the ability of my all-season tires to grip against snow and the ability of that snow to grip against whatever else it is resting against, which is sometimes just more snow or perhaps ice. In such cases, it is possible that your car will slow down about as fast as if you were to simply shift into the neutral without tapping the brakes at all.

And that’s sort of what you see happening here:

These are people who were probably happily driving for miles and miles without anything bad happening. They slowly built their confidence and then plowed their multi-thousand-dollar death machines into one another. Please be smarter than that.

snow photo

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11 thoughts on “Snow is Scary

  1. Yep. Welcome to my world. I sometimes wonder if modern cars aren’t engineered a bit too well. It all works so well in sorta adverse conditions that it results in a false sense of confidence. 4WD/AWD is nice but it doesn’t alter the physics of friction between the tires and the road. What it does is make it a lot easier to get around on snowy streets and parking lots at low speed but it doesn’t do a damn thing for you at highway speeds.

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  2. Yeah, driving on city streets as snowy as what’s on that video clip wouldn’t give me to think twice – that’s normal conditions for three or four months of the year here. In half an hour I’m going to hop on my bicycle and ride to my medical appointment on probably 5 cm of hard pack show (the main roads are mostly free of snow but too fast for bicycling). 25% more conservatism is a nice way to sum it up, though there are also specific skills to practice.

    But that only applies in cities that normally get lots of snow, so you can expect other drivers to know how to handle it. This kind of conditions in North Carolina works be terrifying.

    And driving on a highway that snowy – whole different matter.

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  3. Yep. That happens around here too. I think we’ve had 5 snow days in the last 2 weeks because the schools decided children dying on the roads was a reasonable possibility.

    To be fair, all communities are prepared to deal with 99% of the weather they have. So if -40 windchill was a common thing then I doubt the schools would have closed.

    Similarly if a place never gets snow then a quarter inch of freezing rain shuts down the community.

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    • A friend of mine who grew up in Labrador shared the school closure standards from the time she was a kid. I think a -50 C windchill closed down K-3, but older kids were expected to attend still. It took something like -65 C to shut down the whole works all the way to grade 12.

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  4. I agree 99% with this take except the toxic masculinity part. I don’t really see that here. It seems like dumb statements by dudes doesn’t immediately = toxicity, does it?

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  5. So while the 25 percent is dubious (and I think meant humorously to contrast with the ignore/panic cycle), and the Make It Home at All Costs attitude is *extremely* dubious, especially in contexts where a lot of people should be staying the fish where they are and accepting being snowed in, as someone who grew up with a lot of snow for many months out of the year, the actual advice given, when the snarky voice is filtered out, is really not that bad. Basic defensive driving for bad road conditions.

    Like, if only the people on the road here in Co Springs would follow it when there is snow, instead of acting like oblivious monkeys, I would be very happy.

    If anyone who would otherwise act like an oblivious monkey remembered the linked article and, say, thought ahead about following distance, being relaxed about other people cutting their speed by 10mph, and getting up hills when there is snow on the ground, I would be happier than not.

    That said, the whole “get out and solve stuckness / other traffic problems yourself as opposed to contacting emergency services and making sure the person doesn’t freeze to death in the meantime” attitude is kind of stupid and quite possibly would lead to further harms. But that doesn’t mean I can claim to have never been the same kind of stupid. (See above re: years of living in the snow.) I don’t do that here because the reaction of all the oblivious/panicked drivers around me would probably lead to a 10-car pile-up or something.

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  6. I’m pretty sure that video is from a 37-vehicle pileup near Salina, KS last week. Word I got was that 5 or 6 people died. Cars were getting smashed between big trucks.

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    • Yesterday evening a snow squall went across the main road to the Denver airport, abruptly cutting visibility. 49-car pile up — several people hospitalized but none with life-threatening injuries. The worst snow storm for visibility I ever had to drive in was thick enough that brake lights of the car in front of you disappeared at about 15 feet.

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  7. I’d like to say this is just a problem in states that get an occasional snow, but even in WI, we had knuckleheads who had no excuse not to know better, driving along like they had traction, when what they had was merely inertia.

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