Jon Stevens

Weathering the storm of bad drivers

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The official first day of winter is Saturday and, so far, we have been fortunate no paralyzing snowstorms have hit our little corner of the world.


Of course, other parts of the state and much of the country, particularly the Midwest, have not been so lucky. I am not in a gloating mood because I have a strong sense that our day(s) will come.


And frankly, that’s OK with me because I like snow, always have and probably always will. The only reservation I have about the onset of a winter wonderland, considering I drive 25 miles to work and back each day, is those who travel my route would respect the conditions when the road is covered and visibility is limited to 10 feet or less.


It’s amazing to me that some people drive as if they have never seen snow before. I mean, we don’t live in the south where snowfall is considered one of nature’s cruel jokes.


For instance, last year while driving to work in a considerable snowstorm, certain images kept popping into my mind.


First, and perhaps most vivid, was that I very well could become a statistic, not a pleasant one mind you, but one that is documented when weather makes certain drivers overly cautious, and others throw caution to the wind.


I kept a reasonable distance between my car and the one directly in front of me. Interstate 79 South, from Washington to Waynesburg, was in relatively good shape at 8:30 a.m.


But I soon realized I was driving behind one of those overly cautious drivers, someone who would, for reasons known only to him or her, continually apply the brakes when there seemed to be no logic to do so. And of course, that meant I had to brake or I would be a “ran-into-the rear-of-a-car” statistic.


I backed off even more, just in case, even though traffic in the right lane was moving at a safe pace.


Here is where the not-so-pleasant statistic came rushing into my mind: While most of us were exercising good driving habits, a tractor-trailer flew by me in the passing lane at a speed barely suitable for a bone-dry road.


Not only did I envision this bully of the road wiping out a half-dozen cars on its right, but the damn truck vomited up so much slush that my visibility turned to near zero.


And of course, my first instinct was to look to see if Mr./Mrs. Cautious had braked up ahead.


It wasn’t just the drivers of the tractor-trailers who thought passing at 70 miles per hour was appropriate because SUVs and pickup trucks did the same.


But winter’s white rain also reminded me that most adults have a disdain for snow. It means shoveling or snowblowing; scraping the windshield in the morning if your car that doesn’t have garage privileges; and discovering that the windshield washer fluid dispenser is empty.


Snow, you see, was created for children. Most like it, at least I did when I was a kid. A significant snowfall meant no school; soaping up the sled runners; putting on boots, gloves, scarves and unattractive hats to play endless hours and never feeling the cold.


Now, while listening to the late news and the weather forecast when snow is predicted, my first thought is ‘How will the roads be?’


For the most part, winter has been rather kind to us but it doesn’t take much of the white stuff to bring out the worst in some drivers.


To those who find snow to be a foreign element, and to those who don’t seem to give a damn that it’s winter and it does snow, remember that image I had: Don’t become a statistic.


Let’s make sure we all get to work safely, even if we are a few minutes late.


So, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow, but preferably on Saturday and Sunday.


Jon Stevens is the Greene County bureau chief. He can be reached at jstevens@observer-reporter.com.


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