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


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Readers continue to relay thoughtful recommendations in response to my columns touting driver resolutions and tips for winter driving.  It’s always good to hear from those who devote extra attention to the driving task.

As a New Year’s resolution, I reminded drivers to look as far down the road as possible.  That behavior helps chances of getting an advance warning to emergency developments with enough time to react to them.  I believe many drivers don’t pay due attention beyond the immediate periphery of their autos.

T.M. pointed out an omission in that advice by writing, “In your otherwise excellent article you mentioned ‘looking ahead’ but failed to mention ‘360 degree awareness’ through side scanning and the use of one’s mirrors to maintain total awareness of one’s driving environment.”

I did not mean to imply that drivers should look ahead in lieu of total directional vigilance, or to minimize the need for “360 degree awareness” and proper use of rear-view mirrors.  Thanks, nevertheless, to T.M for reminding us of the importance of full-view awareness.  Driving should always be treated as a full-time endeavor requiring all of one’s attention and resistance to distraction.

I’ve often mentioned that inadequate following distance is among the leading causes of vehicle accidents, along with excess speed, especially during adverse winter road conditions.

L.S. expressed his take on that reality, emphatically pointing out, “Icy roads:  They do cause problems, and I even hear some police saying that the ice causes the accidents.  Looks to me like it is speed more than anything else.”

Along those lines, R.H. sent a link to a video from a dash camera showing a chain-reaction, black-ice condition freeway accident.  He added, “I would be interested in your take on this dash cam video recently posted on Facebook by KHQ-6 news.”

In the video, the driver of a “dashcammed” vehicle was able to avoid a crash by carefully steering through the spinning cars ahead that had lost controllable contact with the icy road surface, with its driver attributing that success to having studded tires on his truck.  While those tires may have offered him confidence and some degree of physical assistance, I think he sold himself short regarding other good driving practices at play.

My take:  It is hard to quantify the amount of credit to award the studded tires on the driver’s vehicle.  Based on what I gathered from the evidence of his dash cam video I would attribute his success more to vigilance and sufficient following distance, coupled with a quick, yet gentle input to steer around the trouble.  In a black-ice condition, the studs likely enhanced adhesion to some degree, but an overly-abrupt reaction, excess speed, or insufficient time/distance to react calmly would have still sent him spinning

The video was a good visual reminding drivers to become aware of a potential black-ice surface before it takes them by surprise.  Outside temperature displays, careful “brake-checks,” or lack of vehicle “spray” from traffic ahead are all early warning signs.  Once discovered, reduced speeds, gentle inputs to throttle, steering and brakes, and increased following distances are the best prevention of disaster in glare ice conditions. Evidently, the spinning vehicles were taken by surprise.

While driving is a multi-tasking event, it’s one that diligent humans can successfully conquer.  It does, however, require adequate thought and devotion, distraction resistance and adaptability to ever-changing traffic and road conditions.  Let’s all aim for that!

Readers may contact Bill Love via email at