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“…so rare, it’s practically a super power”

January 21, 2010

Another person died today between Bloomington and Peoria, in a late-model pickup.  She spun out of control, collided head-on with a semi, flipped over and died en route to the hospital.  The highway patrol attributed the accident “100% to the icy conditions”.

Nonsense.  During an ice storm, nobody should be going more than 20 mph, but we all know that isn’t the reality.  Everyone has an excuse for going almost the full speed limit, ignoring the other speed limit set by common sense. 

Let’s say that the amount of energy at 20mph equals X.  At 40mph you’re packing four times the kinetic energy.  You need four times the traction to steer or brake, and then a collision hits four times as hard.  The survivable, becomes the unsurvivable.  You die for no good reason.

The woman was driving a late-model GMC pickup.  It’s a sturdy, well-designed vehicle, but head-on with 40 tons is hard to beat.  She left a husband and kids.

Once when I was a service manager for a chain of computer stores, I was riding in a van and the owner of the company was at the wheel.  There was a snow/ice storm going on and the worse it got, the faster he drove.  Visibility was poor and the road was slick.  He brushed off requests to slow down, and we exceeded 70mph in places.  I thought about my wife and kids.  The next day, I told him I would never get in a car with him at the wheel again, and I never did.

One of the rationalizations he used was; “if we slow down, we’ll get rear-ended”.  That is a distinct possibility, which in such conditions is a good reason to make sure your seat belts are fastened, your head rests adjusted, and to put on the emergency flashers.  But it’s a really stupid reason to go too fast for conditions.

Last Fall in this area, a young woman died when her Buick Rainier rolled over.  It’s a well-built SUV with a good safety rating, but rescuers surmised that she unbuckled her belt to reach her cell phone, which she had dropped while text-messenging.  In a rare moment of insight, Illinois legislators just passed a law making it illegal to text while driving, but I wonder why a law was even necessary.  As the poster says; “Common Sense: So rare it’s practically a super power.”  If they can’t figure out it’s a bad idea to text and drive, I wonder if a law will really help.

Maybe I’m just getting old and cranky, and I’ve done a dumb thing or two behind the wheel.  But four of my classmates died in 1973 from a high-speed accident.  Makes you thoughtful.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. January 21, 2010 at 02:07 | #1

    I’ve been in enough spinouts on ice over the years to know that the other problem with it is that there’s no traction. If you have to stop or turn quickly, you usually can’t. So plan way ahead.

    It’s sad that I actually had to look up the formula for kinetic energy. Been awhile since physics class. But that squared thing sure gets big quickly, doesn’t it?

  2. January 21, 2010 at 08:24 | #2

    It should be thought-provoking for the driver, that’s for sure. 

    Overnight I got to thinking what it was exactly that upsets me about stories like this one.  It isn’t just that the individual took a dumb chance.  I have no problem with someone risking their lives for art or adventure, for example.  But driving from Peoria to Bloomington is neither.  You’ll still get there by slowing down.

    What bothered me, I think, is the culture of taking lethal chances for NO payoff.  And it is cultural.  If the woman had slowed down to the speed that conditions required, she would have had any number of people flying past her honking the horn and flipping the bird.  If they were lucky, the typical result would be that they wound up in a ditch and need a tow truck and a body shop, while she drove slowly past their dumb asses.  All unnecessary.

    “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” might make sense in battle or in an actual race.  But on a daily commute…

  3. January 21, 2010 at 09:46 | #3

    Whether it is good or not I find that each year as I edge towards that 75 year mark I have started to become more cautious about walking and driving in bad weather.  I rarely exceed the speed limit which indeed brings fingers, horns, and revving of engine when I am passed.  But at least I do the speed limit except in bad driving conditions and I am still around to talk about it. 

    Another bad condition is rain.  Every bit as slippery as ice and snow but people never seem to worry about it.

  4. January 21, 2010 at 19:13 | #4

    Maybe the problem is too many people luck out? Or the Monkey Sphere theory? Whatever it is there is certainly some stupidity involved.

    The thing that bugs the hell out of me about this whole thing is how I hear other people, from all age groups, make fun of people that drive slow and conservatively. WTF!?!? Really? Because there is something macho or superior about being a dumbass?

  5. January 23, 2010 at 09:59 | #5

    Parked in a forest lot today.
    Light powder snow over unseen sheet ice.
    After a 5 mph turn in, I only just managed to stop before the other end of the lot!

    Come to a stop on a very mild slope.
    Wifey got out carefully to avoid slipping,
    to direct me to a free piece of gravel.

    That lightened the car enough for it to slide sideways down the mild slope to the hedge. Sheesh!
    I had to get some of the sand out of the boot/trunk and spread it beneath the wheels along my intended track just to get enough traction to get back out of the lot at 1 mph!

    Talk about a skating rink!

  6. January 25, 2010 at 11:38 | #6

    I’ve had people pass me on expressways in blinding rainstorms here in Florida. Rain so hard that some folks pulled onto the paved shoulder with their trouble lights on (I should have done the same).

    Oh, they passed me because I slowed down to about 50, which was doubtless still too fast for the conditions. My point is not so much that they passed, me, but it was two vehicles, going at least 80, with less than a car length between them! The guy in the rear was doing the common American thing of tailgating/intimidating, I assume.

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