Wednesday, December 16, 2009
MINI-E passes the icy road test!
On Sunday, December 13th, as I was driving to work at 9:45am, I drove through a rare occurrence where the conditions were perfect and the roads iced up almost instantly without any warning. During my 31 mile drive, I witnessed about 10 accidents but drove by at least 40 cars that had skidded off the road before I got there. Shortly after I made it through the troubled area, the NJ State Police closed the roads that I was on for a short period until the ice melted. Let me explain:
Every once in a while the conditions are just right for this to happen and when it does, all hell breaks loose and there are literally hundreds of accidents within minutes. It happens when the temperature is right around 32 degrees and it starts raining. The temperature up in the air must be warm enough so the rain doesn't freeze but then a quick temperature drop at ground level freezes the water on the roadways without warning and the roads become treacherous. My journey began from my home in Chester. I drove 10 miles on route 24 through Mendham and Morristown without incident as it was raining and the roads were just wet. When I got to the exit ramp for route 287 I eased off the accelerator and allowed the regenerative braking to slow me down as I always do but the car sensed the wheels slipping and quickly disengaged the regenerative braking. This probably saved me from sliding off the road and into a tree. I instantly realized what was happening and just steered the car through the turn since I wasn't going fast. Anyone that has the displeasure of driving on icy roads knows the worst thing to do is panic and hit the brakes.
My first thought is wow, these new snow tires aren't as good as I thought they would be, I almost lost it there. But it didn't take me long to see I was in the middle of something big, not just a typical patch of ice. As I drove down route 287 the instrument light that tells you the tires are slipping kept coming on so I slowed down to about 40 mph. A big black Chevy Tahoe came up behind me and since I wasn't going fast enough for him he started to pass me. As he passed on the left, I slowed down even more to let him get by and as he got in front of me, the Tahoe slid sideways right in front of my path, off the road and into the trees. As I looked at his car, I heard a horn beeping and I looked up just in time to see a car sliding quickly behind me and about to hit me from the rear. I quickly turned into the fast lane without even looking and the car slid right by me and also off the road. Now I knew exactly what I was in the middle of so I slowed down to about 20mph, put on my flashers and continued along. I was afraid that if I tried to stop someone would just slide into me.
People were sliding of the road and into each other the whole way. I counted 8 cars on their roofs off the side of the road and at least 40 damaged cars along the way. After a while I figured I should take some pictures or nobody will believe just how bad it really was. I felt like I was John Cusack in the movie 2012 as I was driving and avoiding accidents all around and watching car after car slide off the road or into another car, some sliding off the road and rolling multiple times. The next day I was talking to a customer that was on route 280 about 10 minutes after I was and he was in the middle of a 15 car pileup as the cars just kept sliding and crashing into each other.
I made it through unscathed but I'm sure that it was just as much luck as it was the fact that I quickly realized what was happening and acted appropriately. I must say I was really impressed with how the car handled this extreme event. When the entire road surface suddenly ices up it is much worse that when it's snowing because most people don't realize what's happening until it's too late. I haven't seen that kind of road conditions for a few years and I hope I don't have to drive in it ever again.