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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Driving miscellany

There are a host of driving tidbits on my mind, so rather than limit discussion to a single topic this week, I’ll cover a few.  Please send me any of your comments regarding this driving miscellany; I love to hear your views!

Skid marks

I think I’ve finally found a useful purpose for studded tires:  Their telltale skid marks help identify icy road surfaces.  Either because they are caught unaware or are simply driving too aggressively, drivers using studded tires are marking their territory with lengthy skid marks, and I’ve recently noticed bunches of them at icy residential intersections where vehicles stop and start.

That’s a handy reminder to me as I approach those stud-striped locations that they are especially slick.  But I still must marvel as to why such allegedly effective traction devices slide enough upon stopping and takeoff to leave those long skid marks.  It’s especially perplexing when I am able to stop and start my vehicle, equipped with all-season or studless winter tires, with no slide or spin.

Maybe I owe some of that capability to the clear, advance warning of ice’s presence borne of the skid marks left by inept or uncaring drivers using studded tires!

Parking dilemma

I’ve never seen a definitive answer for this, though it occurs every winter.  In downtown, over the holiday season, I found it convenient to park in uncovered, pay parking lots a couple of times.

Normally, at such lots, one parks in a numbered space, then places the required fee into the corresponding numbered slot in an adjacent steel box.  That’s a simple system, except when the parking lot is covered with snow.

What slot should I put my money in when the number of my spot is well-concealed beneath the snow?  Is it free-for-all parking?  Am I supposed to pick a number at random?

Fog lights

I often wonder why so many drivers have their vehicle’s fog lights turned on at all times; I think it’s mainly oblivious drivers.

The auxiliary lighting included on many newer vehicles is meant to provide additional illumination low and to both sides.  Designed mainly for foggy conditions, they only work when the headlights are on low beam, since that is also the preferred setting for fog.

The fog lights are controlled by a switch that is separate from the headlights, and I believe many drivers are simply unaware of this switch or forget to ever turn in off once activated.  Fog light beams are generally low enough to be of little nuisance to oncoming drivers, but can easily become misaimed over time to become semi-blinding hazards.

Offending drivers are not benefitting from any added visibility by keeping these fog-aids lit round-the-clock, in all conditions.  Please get to know your vehicle controls, and reserve fog light use for fog.  If you’re using them to be cool, your goal is not realized.

Impromptu avalanch

Okay, I’ve been guilty of this failure myself, but that doesn’t make it forgivable.  While clearing snow from your windshield, take the extra time to clear it from the rest of the vehicle.

Sure, you may be weary from shoveling the driveway and scraping ice from the windshield, but that’s not a good excuse for failing to remove it from your vehicle’s hood, roof and trunk.  It’s not as important if you are just heading to the local convenience store, but on the highway it might initiate an unexpected avalanche affecting you and other drivers.

I was reminded of that last week when following a Suburban onto the freeway.  Once we reached a threshold speed of about 58 mph, a large rectangle of snow blew from his roof to my windshield, momentarily obscuring my view.  The wind and quick wiper activation renewed my vision, but it’s always shocking to be momentarily blind at 60 mph.  And when stopping, even from lower speeds, a similar snow-shift could block your own vision.  The best policy for the safety of everyone is to remove all the snow you can before embarking.

Overall, winter provides unique driving situations and challenges; with some extra thought and preparation, those challenges are easily conquered.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at