Monday, March 04, 2002

The fact that I am here to write these words is a credit to the engineers that design the tread pattern on tires.

Yesterday, I did a 300 km drive from Fernie back to Calgary. During the course of the day, weather conditions took a bad turn. In the morning and early afternoon, a clear, sunny day heated the bare pavement of the highway above that of the fields of powdery snow. Later in the afternoon, winds blowing the snow from the fields across the highway picked up, followed by a quick and sharp drop in temperature that froze the melting snow on the road into a thick, smooth sheet of ice. This caused a fifty kilometre stretch of road halfway through my trip (the southernmost part of Highway 22) to become one of the most treacherous stretches that I have ever driven. The road was totally covered with ice, and there was terrible crosswind and blowing snow that more often than not obscured every hint of where the road was. On a highway that is normally travelled at 100 km/hour, it felt dangerous to be going over 40.

In spite of these terrible conditions, there were still people that passed me at 20 - 30 km/hour faster than I was going. We passed one accident where a car and truck (apparently approaching each other) had collided and spun off into the ditch. We were about the twelfth or thirteenth vehicle on the scene, so I didn't think it was necessary to stop and lend assistance. I couldn't tell who was at fault, but I could see that the car (having less mass) had taken the brunt of the punishment. As it was minus 20 celcius and there was a strong wind blowing through the smashed glass of their vehicles, I couldn't help but pity both drivers as they waited for the tow trucks to arrive.

It also occurred to me that, travelling on a highway in frightening road conditions like those, no matter how cautious a driver you are, you are only as safe as the other morons on the road - in front, behind and oncoming. What a sobering thought.

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