Tires in good shape? Check. Using proper oil for ultra-cold weather? Check. Using coolant with ethylene glycol and in the proper ratio to water? Check. Battery in ship-shape with an expiration date far enough in your future? Check. Emergency kit in your car? Check.
Sounds like you’re ready for safe and sound travel on the roads this winter. But there’s still one more thing you need, and it’s a “tool” that reigns supreme. It doesn’t fit in your car’s interior, trunk, or glove compartment. You won’t find it under the hood. Doesn’t come in a can, bottle, or tube either. When it’s there, you don’t see it. When it isn’t there, you do. What is it? It’s a defensive, strategic mindset while driving in winter conditions. Here’s what this must-have looks like when people forget or fail to bring it on the road:
This frightening pileup was filmed by a DOT steady-cam on an icy, slushy, snowy stretch of highway in eastern Wisconsin. As you can see from the white-knuckle footage, visibility was low and roads were slick due to snowfall. Yet despite these dangerous driving conditions, many drivers were speeding along the highway too close together and at devil-may-care speeds. Several of them milled around their vehicles as the pileup continued, or exited their cars to check on others. It’s pretty harrowing just watching cars and trucks slide out of control towards these drivers-turned-pedestrians.
All around it was a dangerous scene and a wonder no one was killed. But just 10 miles up the same road, a 40-care pileup took place on the same day, resulting in at least one fatality.
For those of us watching scenes like this one—that is, with hindsight and a bird’s-eye view—it’s easy to tsk tsk the drivers. But judging from how many were going a little too fast, braking just a little too late, standing smack-dab in the danger zone, and not putting on their hazard lights, it would be fair to say we’re seeing the rule rather than the exception here. Think about that rule every time you hit the winter roads. Think about this video. Use it as a reminder. Be on the lookout, always thinking ahead.