With winter’s first snow come the flakes | NevadaAppeal.com

With winter’s first snow come the flakes

Barry Smith

Ahh, the first snowfall of winter. How I love the glistening white landscape, the quiet blanket laid down by nature, the idiot drivers behind the wheel.

In their annual ritual, motorists reacted with predictable response to a layer of snow and ice on streets and highways: they lost their minds.

Oh, not everyone, of course. Many drivers realize they have less traction, less time to react to routine maneuvers like stopping at red lights, more likelihood for one careless second to become a gut-wrenching accident.

Others, however, see slick streets as an opportunity to prove they must have hired a stunt double to take their driver’s-license examination.

Anybody out there who didn’t see some driver perform an incredibly dumb trick on the roadways this past week, please raise your hand. OK, folks who haven’t been out from under the covers in a few days because the electricity was out, you don’t count.

And I realize that on any given day, simply driving from here to there usually means encountering a fellow motorist who believes the rules of the road include “I Rule the Road.”

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Still, a little slickness manages to magnify their misunderstanding like a 100x microscope.

Fortunately, I haven’t witnessed any major accidents myself this week. I imagine several of you have, so you may have better stories than I do. Actually, everybody I’ve talked with this week has had a pretty good story to tell about some moron who almost clipped them.

Even my wife, who doesn’t drive (for which we can all be grateful), almost got nailed on foot. Some guy came whipping down the street in his truck, lost traction, fish-tailed for half a block, and missed her by — oh, she held her hands apart about the length of a football. It’s true she was trudging in the street, because nobody along that block had bothered to scoop their sidewalks.

On another day, I saw a driver with California plates react a moment too late when a traffic light turned yellow at the south end of Carson Street. He slid to a stop before entering the intersection. Fortunately, the driver behind him was paying attention and reacted quickly, also sliding to a stop so he wouldn’t rear-end the California car.

The curious thing, though, came at the next intersection. The California driver, not wanting to make the same mistake twice, saw the yellow light in time to speed up. That enabled him to zip through the intersection after the light had changed to red.

He escaped unscathed, leaving me behind to wonder how he planned to handle the next traffic signal.

At a four-way stop the other evening, when roads were icy, traffic came to a halt in all directions. When it came time for a truck in a left-turn lane to proceed, the guy in the truck behind him decided it must be OK for everybody in that left-turn lane to go. So he simply followed him through the intersection, while the other three stopped cars double-pumped their brakes.

At another intersection, I was waiting for traffic coming from my left that didn’t have a stop sign. A kid in a sports car coming up behind me, though, apparently figured I was simply napping in my truck. Without even hesitating at the stop sign, he buzzed past me and turned right in front of the oncoming cars.

I can read lips only well enough to figure out what coaches are saying on the sidelines when the referee makes a bad call. I could see both of the drivers who had to swerve to miss the kid in his sports car mouthing very similar words as they went past me.

Yep. Bad call, buddy.

Suffice it to say that after a few days of winter weather, drivers’ manners seem to improve. We usually attribute that to people gradually becoming accustomed to slick roads, slowing down, taking a few extra precautions like not following quite so closely, and so on.

I think it’s pretty clear, though, the real reason is that a high percentage of morons are no longer on the road. Their cars and trucks are sitting in a ditch somewhere, or are at the repair shop having the fenders banged out.

Eventually, though, they’ll be back out there. You’ve got my word on it. Just read my lips.

Barry Smith is editor of the Nevada Appeal.