- Car Safety & Safe Driving
Winter Driving Nightmare
Life in the Great Garden State, winter '09
This past Thursday, going into Friday, we were hit with our third snow storm, the third in three weeks. I thought to myself I should stay home, however, as I knew I had deadlines to meet and would be out of work next week, I decided I certainly needed to attempt to get to work.
Before heading out, I called the job to see if the facility was closed, or, at the very least was having a delayed opening. Sadly for me, it was a delayed opening. It was disappointing also because as I listened to the news and checked my radio station's website, the list of closings was growing very quickly. I so hoped my company would have been on the list. However, I knew that greed was keeping them open.
Well, I decided I didn't want to sit here and wait another hour or so and hope the weather improved to begin the trek, so I decided to leave early. My normal start time is 7 am. If you manage to get there before the delayed opening time, you can leave that much earlier. So, I left here at 5:45 am, and headed up the road and hoped for the best.
To my utter dismay, the roads here were not yet plowed, salted or sanded!!! I was shocked, as normally our town does a great job in keeping the roads passable. So I thought, well ok, I'll just do 20 mph if I have to, so up the road I went. The highway I take to work is less than a half mile from my house. Well, once I got on the highway it was really dicey and I slid a little in a few spots, even with having 4 wheel drive. Obviously, I needed to go slower, and It took me a good 20 minutes to go a couple of miles. At one point I considered saying the heck with it and turn around, then thought, no, just go as slow as you have to, you'll get there eventually. The exit I take off the highway is approximately three miles away so I decided to see if I could at least make it that far. At 5:45 am there were very few drivers on the road, and as I was crawling along, with my flashers on, there were those drivers that felt the need to pass me. I thought, what the hell are they thinking? Stupid asses!
Proceeding With Caution
After driving at a snail's pace for approximately 30 minutes and only a mile or two, I finally made it to the exit I needed, and up and around the ramp I went. I managed to get on the next highway, went only a matter of several feet, when all of a sudden I was driving in a whiteout. I could not see four feet in front of me. I started panicking. To my horror, there were more idiots on the road trying to pass me at 25/30 mph, coming within a foot of the side of my truck. My guess is they didn't see me in the whiteout until they were right beside me. It was a small miracle I wasn't side-swiped.
So, with white knuckles and fear in my heart, after driving a bit further the windshield started getting clumps of ice stuck to the blades, making it even harder to see. I finally decided there is no way in hell I am going to make it, so I headed for the next exit, which I couldn't even see. I finally spot it and again, the road is not plowed. This whole trip so far was being driven on un-plowed roads. I couldn't tell what was the road and what wasn't. As I stopped and debated if perhaps I should back off the exit, along came another idiot and passes me on the exit. So, I thought, good I'll follow him, at the very least I'll have something to focus on, and if he should go into a ditch, well, guess I'll be going with him. Sadly, he very quickly disappeared into the white abyss. I continued to proceed cautiously, and I'm driving at a snail's pace when bam! I ran into a curb or something, and as I say a prayer and steer the truck onto what I think is the road, wham! I bounced off a sign. At this point, I thought, oh God, they'll probably find me in a bunch of trees or something frozen to the steering wheel.
Now by this time I'm practically in tears. As I continued creeping along, I finally got on the highway that the exit took me to, only to find I was headed in the wrong direction. I'm thinking, just keep going slow, perhaps this whiteout is limited only to this area, but as I traveled a bit more, I realized that no, this whiteout is everywhere. I was so petrified at this point that the thought of traveling even one more foot was way too scary. Rather then head down to the next traffic light where the next jughandle was, I decided to make a U-turn across four lanes of traffic, which, thankfully, in these conditions, there wasn't any. I headed back to the exit for my highway. Trying to see where the exit even was was a feat in itself. I finally saw it and began to turn into it, and oh boy, here I go again, I felt the truck bounce off something, no doubt the curb. Now I'm again praying a car would get in front of me so I could at least follow onto my highway. During this whole excursion, the wind was whipping, snow was blowing sideways and there was nothing but white in front of me.
Safety at Last
Finally, I made it safely down the ramp to my highway and finally, thank you God, to my street, and the whole time praying, dear God, just let me get home safe. I was never so glad to see my house as I was that morning. I didn't get home till close to 7:30 am, almost three hours since I left the house, and after traveling no more than six miles total round trip. My job is 32 miles one way, which meant that I would have been driving 64 miles total had I continued In those conditions. If that were the case, I would be pulling into the parking lot on Monday. I think not.
Do I care that they didn't close that day? Hell, yes. This whole nightmare could have been avoided had my company closed for the day. What they failed to consider is not everyone experienced the same weather conditions that surrounded the immediate job. Many people go to work from other states and counties, and where, in my case, we were in blizzard conditions.
That was my morning!