Polar Vortex: Winter Driving Dos and Don’ts


This weekend yet another large winter storm, a nor’easter in fact, made its way, appropriately, both north and east causing much havoc to holiday travelers. At one point CNN reported that 100 million people were in the storm’s path. Although we are in the north-east of North America, here in Montreal we were spared all but a dusting of snow.

I dug out this parking spot so it’s mine … forever!

Watching the news coverage of the storm and its aftereffects I was struck by a report of the unwritten rule in South Boston that once you dig your car out of the snow if you place a marker in its stead, your parking spot is deemed to be off-limits to others. Huh?!?

ParkingConeOne often hears people saying that Canada is a more civilized nation that the US given our socialized medicine and attitude toward guns. But this parking spot respect knocked me for a loop. Way up here north of the 49th parallel – where snow was invented – once you vacate a parking spot, it’s up for grabs. Regardless of whether you have placed a construction cone, a chair with a shovel, or your grandparents sitting at a kitchen table quaffing tea, once you’re out, you relinquish all claims to the spot. The logic being everyone digs out once; if I dig out my car I then look for dug-out parking spots and the driver who shoveled out my new spot does likewise.  I’ve seen arguments break out between drivers attempting to pull in behind my just cleared spot.

The photo above from the Boston Globe must be a set-up. First the cleared and reserved parking spot appears to be beside a hydrant and secondly there isn’t enough snow to warrant digging, assuming you are using snow tires!

As much as I admire the sentiment I think the current way of doing things is entrenched in our minds and people here would no sooner respect a cone in a parking spot than they would a guy ‘holding’ a table for four by himself in a crowded bar.

All-season tires may work in all Florida seasons, but …

Trying to drive in snow with all-seasons is like trying to go deep-sea diving with a snorkel; it works up to a point, but to really get the job done better equipment is required.

As a snow person my heart has always gone out to those who are not familiar with the white stuff but who occasionally have to deal with it. Boston, New York, Chicago all have the wherewithal to cope with winter. Washington, D.C. on the other hand is not a winter city and therefore even a small amount of snow can cause chaos. The sight of people trying to navigate slippery icy sidewalks using the best available footwear is nothing short of pathetic (if sometimes just a wee bit funny).

But when it comes to driving in snowy conditions without proper tires there is nothing funny about it. And when I say proper tires I mean snow tires, not all-seasons. Trying to drive in snow with all-seasons is like trying to go deep-sea diving with a snorkel; it works up to a point, but to really get the job done better equipment is required. A few years ago the province of Quebec enacted a law making it mandatory to have snow tires on your car from December 15 to March 15. Too many motorists were trying to save the cost and hassle of using two sets of tires by installing all-seasons, unfortunately they must have been referring to all the seasons in Missouri when they made those tires.

… what I’m asking is that whether you live in Minnesota or Nevada, if there is sufficient snow on the road surface and you don’t have snow tires don’t, for everybody’s sake, drive!

Many folks – men for the most part I believe – claim to be able to drive just fine on their all-season tires in any condition. Not only is this more bravado than fact, it doesn’t stop the lesser talented driver from spinning out of control and into your vehicle. Yep, socialist Canada, we all use the roads so let’s do so in the safest way possible for everybody. Am I suggesting everyone in the United States be required to have snow tires just in case? Of course not, what I’m asking is that whether you live in Minnesota or Nevada, if there is sufficient snow on the road surface and you don’t have snow tires don’t, for everybody’s sake, drive!

MeDCMontreal is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and Freans and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DC on Twitter @DCMontreal and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
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