My Close Call  

nightis 52M
247 posts
3/17/2006 6:28 am
My Close Call

Photo-On a more pleasant day about three weeks ago, the Department of Transportation forgot to come to work as 8 inches of fresh snow was unplowed at Elk Rock.

I am a great driver, and an excellent winter driver. For 17 years, I drove in winter conditions that would scare the ever living shit out of most people. I have never owned a set of tire chains; still don’t. I have never been in an accident while I was the driver. Twice, I have been in accidents while I was the passenger. Yesterday almost changed a lot of things.

The highest point between home and work is about 3,800 feet above sea level. Snow started at about 2,500 feet and by the time I got to the summit, there was a full five inches of new snow. Except for a rotary snow blower working the east bound shoulder, the transportation department was absent. The only traffic on this road so early in the morning in this kind of weather are employees of the Forest Service all headed eastbound and perhaps some up to no good, ever present horn hunters.

I followed the blower up to the summit, allowing him to clear the wet, sticky snow for me. Once I reached the top, I moved to the left into the only set of recent tracks in the fresh snow and proceeded down the 6% grade at about 25 miles per hour. There is never any opposing traffic in weather like this at this hour. Visibility is at about 50 meters and it is snowing hard.

About three corners down the hill, opposing traffic comes from around a turn. It is in the form of a large white truck that is using the same pair of tracks I am; heading straight for me. I tap my brakes and immediately, my car whips out of control. My slide takes me directly in front and to the left of the truck. I studied the front gill of the vehicle readying myself mentally for impact, airbags, crunching sounds and anything else that might come. Instead, my correction brought me back to the right side of the road, safely around the truck and quickly into three more over corrections on the slippery road until I gathered control of my car. I watched the white truck disappear in my review mirror, wondering if the driver felt any concern for me at all.

There was a lot of blame that could have been divvied out; to the Washington State Department of Transportation for not having at least one lane of the road open, to the driver of the white truck for too much speed or for that matter why he was even on the mountain in that type of weather in the early morning hours. I could have certainly been blamed for making the cardinal mistake of tapping on my brakes but I had no choice. It was one of those moments where you go unscathed but wonder how. It is a good story to tell, but nobody’s heart races because they just didn’t experience it like you did.

Driving in conditions like this is a little like a new relationship; There are a lot of near misses with good stories, the occasional fender bender, and the rare collision with full deployment of airbags. If you don’t brave the conditions, how is your heart ever going to race?

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