by Paul M. Carhart
Sometimes we get into patterns that become etched into our psyche as we go about business. The automatic pilot is on. But when the weather is bad, it's our job to break out of our rut before we snap someone's neck. Maybe even our own.
Slow Down For Crying Out Loud
We all live on-the-go lifestyles, which sometimes means zipping from here to there at a breakneck pace. Unfortunately, the reality of today's freeways more resembles a parking lot than a throughway where forward motion is actually expected. And when the traffic finally opens up, we like to take advantage of that. But when it's raining or snowing, the cardinal rule is to slow down. Set a maximum speed for yourself and adhere to it. If your mph starts sliding upward, throw your vehicle into second gear if you must. Of all of these pointers, if you can keep only this one, you'll probably save your life.
Remember your Driver Ed class? Put at least four seconds between your car and the one in front of you. It’s called the Safety Cushion. Does anyone do this anymore? Apparently not. But when the road you’re on is slippery, you won't know it until you apply the brakes. That's where the space between you and the next guy could be the difference between a close call and a fender bender.
Keep Your Equipment Current
When your windshield is constantly getting pelted, it's important to have wipers that can do the job. They should be replaced every year or two. Sooner if you live in a particularly dry climate. Tires are commonly overlooked for replacement. You should always have a quarter-inch tread on your tires. If you know you're going to experience snow, there are snow tires that will better help you get around. However, these tires aren’t very good on everyday streets. You can also improve a standard set of tires for bad weather by siping them. This inexpensive process creates small horizontal cuts in the tire that work like squeegees against the road surface.
I’m not talking about stopping off at the local Mexican place either. When the weather sucks, so does the traffic. And if you’ve got a paltry eighth of a tank of gas before hopping onto the freeway, even though it might normally get you home, you could find yourself stuck in a bumper-to-bumper nightmare. The last thing you need is to run out of gas, thus becoming a contributor to the problem even after the original blockage is cleared. A good rule of thumb in inclement weather: keep it at a half tank.
Watch where you're going when driving. It should be a given. If you're rubber-necking at accidents or checking out the hot young things strutting along the sidewalk, you're just asking to rear-end the guy in front of you. But where you might by pure luck escape unscathed on a bright and sunny day, your attention focused firmly on the road during bad weather might just save your life. This goes for shaving and applying make-up as well. And especially for mobile phones. It doesn't matter if you're on a headset or not, if you're carrying on a conversation over the phone, you're not present on the road.
Strap Everyone In
Even if you do everything you can to keep yourself safe, you can't control everyone on the road. Accidents happen. So strap everyone in! Then you can go about your business assured that you and your loved ones are tucked away as safe as they can be.
Despite all this common sense, we still see folks tearing down the freeway in the rain, sleet and snow. As they zip past me, I wonder how many of them will actually make it to their destination on time and unscathed. Trust me, when the weather is bad, it’s better to be the tortoise than the hare.
Paul Carhart’s book, Zooming Thru Life: Creative Tips To Bring Sanity To Your On-The-Go Lifestyle, will be available from your favorite online bookseller, August 2009. Stay up to date: paulcarhart.com.