Snowplow operators were the bright spot


February 01, 2005|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

EVERY YEAR after the first major snow, my e-mail inbox gets plowed over by all the messages grousing about the winter weather.

Last week was no exception. Some common themes emerged: while some drivers handle their vehicles intelligently and safely in the snow, some are accidents dying to happen; county and State Highway Administration snowplow crews did a terrific job; and not enough drivers clear the snow from the tops of their vehicles.

Disaster drivers

"Maryland drivers in snow? What a disaster!" Ken Bruzek exclaimed. "I'm still trying to figure out why the new Volvo on U.S. 40 in Ellicott City insisted on driving 25 mph in the left lane with his [hazard] flashers going when the right lane was clear of all snow."

Randy Bieganski noticed that when it snows there are suddenly only two kinds of drivers. "There is such a disparity in driving habits in the snow," he said. "Some drivers have a complete disregard for the slippery conditions while others appear to be so scared to be driving in the stuff that they are barely moving."

A Wisconsin native, he learned how to drive in snow when he got his learner's permit. "What we would consider a minor nuisance there is considered a major snowstorm here. It was fortunate that this happened on a weekend and most drivers wisely avoided driving and stayed off the roads."

Mike Wood is also a native of the Midwest. "I moved here in June from Michigan. I admit finding something of truth in the saying that drivers here don't know how to handle snow," he said. "I found many folks here going way too fast, or way too slow, for conditions, including the person doing 20 mph on [Interstate] 95 and giving everyone who passed him on basically clear roadways [an] ugly [gesture]."

Mr. Bruzek wondered: "Do you think it would sink in if we told some of the [sport utility vehicle] drivers that no matter how many wheel drive they have, they still can't stop on ice any better than a regular car?"

I wouldn't bet your life on it.

Roads cleared quickly

Mr. Wood was one of those who applauded the snow-removal effort as a job well done. "I thought the plow crews were out in fine form and did a great job," he said. "Most arterials were done quickly, and my residential side street in Ellicott City got plowed within a day."

He wasn't alone.

"Our street was plowed Saturday evening, which is good service," Jim Johnson said. He lives at the top of a small hill. "The county seems to be cognizant of the hazard and usually salts it quickly whenever ice is a concern."

Mr. Bieganski was out about 9 a.m. Jan. 22, just as the snow was beginning. "I observed numerous salt trucks and snowplows ready for action, especially along the U.S. 40 area," he said.

He lives on a court, usually the last roads to be plowed. But he was pleasantly surprised to see his court plowed when he woke up Sunday morning.

Mr. Bieganski also noted that by noon Sunday, when he had to take his daughter back to college, "other than some minor drifting, the roads had been cleared, salted and were down to the pavement. I commend the state and county highway crews for their efforts. They were prepared when it began, stayed on top of it through the day, and by Sunday most of the roads were in great shape!"

Clear the whole car

Many saved their ire for some careless car owners. People who don't clean all the snow off their cars twists Sarah Adkins' axles, especially when "driving down the road the snow flies off and into my windshield," she said.

"Especially dangerous were the many with no view out their rear windows," Mr. Wood said.

As late as Wednesday, when Mr. Bieganski sent his e-mail, some drivers still had not bothered to clear the snow from their cars. "Driving to work this morning, I still observed some cars with a pile of snow on the roof or back windows covered," he said. "Everyone should invest in a good snow brush/scraper and just keep it in the trunk. It doesn't take much extra effort to clear off the roof, hood or trunk lid and it promotes better safety for [everyone]."

What's your traffic trauma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at, send faxes to 410-715-2816 or mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun in Howard County, 30 Corporate Center, 10440 Little Patuxent Parkway, Suite 820, Columbia, 21044. Include your full name and contact information or your comments will not be published or receive a response.

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