A few months ago, as I was driving home with the girls, I told them the story of my first driving lesson. I don’t remember why I told that story, but Sunshine loved it and begged for more. As spring approaches, I don’t mind reminiscing about those stories—and what I learned from them about wet weather driving.
So I told her another story, about coming home from a violin lesson in my dad’s half-ton pickup. One corner near our house was notoriously icy in the winter. I approached it slowly and carefully, braking to a stop at the stop sign and checking both ways for traffic. Then I gently stepped on the gas pedal, easing out into the intersection to turn left. Once I was on the road, I straightened the wheel. The truck kept turning left. I turned the steering wheel further right, but the truck kept going left, sliding gently into the ditch to face back the way I’d come.
I got out, hiking a block back down the road to the local dairy farmer’s (we bought milk from him and my brothers worked for him and his wife had taught me piano for years), and asked him to pull me out. He drove back with his 4×4 three-quarter ton pickup, hooked up a tow rope, and tried to pull me out. His wheels spun and his back end slid sideways across the road. I felt better about landing in the ditch then; it wasn’t entirely my fault! Eventually he got me out and we both continued on our ways.
Over the next few years, I put each of my parents’ other vehicles in the ditch. At that same corner, I slid off the road going the other direction in my mom’s new Toyota 4Runner, shifted it into 4×4 on the go and drove right back out again—and decided I loved 4×4. Another time, I hit black ice on the highway in our 8-passenger Chevy van, slid sideways into the ditch, and realized that if I stopped there, I was a half-hour’s drive from either home or the city and that would be a long, cold walk. So I hammered the gas pedal and kept that van ploughing through the ditch until I hit a driveway that let me pull back onto the highway, with a few more fishtails and wild looks at another driver, before safely making it to university.
Learning to drive as a teenager in Alberta, chauffeuring my mom down our local country roads or driving myself to music lessons and babysitting jobs, I gained a confidence behind the wheel. Even though I hit the ditch several times, I never hurt either myself or the vehicles I drove. My first experience in the ditch was in the summer, on a gravel road, and that experience taught me to handle a sliding vehicle in any weather.
Now, bad roads and wet weather driving don’t scare me, whether that’s a torrential spring rain storm that causes huge puddles on the road or a winter blizzard that leaves ice coating the highways. Safe driving is important year-round. I believe a big part of that is simply being prepared for whatever conditions you might encounter on the roads. Just because winter is over doesn’t mean we can assume the roads will be fine; spring can bring just as many weather hazards for drivers.
State Farm says, “We take our role as a good neighbor seriously when it comes to keeping you and your family safe on the road. Our relationships and programs promote child passenger safety, teen driver safety, seat belt safety, sober and engaged driving.” I like the idea that good driving is part of being a good neighbour, because so much of what happens on the road depends not only on your own skills behind the wheel, but what the other drivers are doing as well.
State Farm offers drivers a wealth of information on driving, such as articles on safety and teen drivers and buying vehicles. Today, I think one of the greatest tragedies is distracted driving and using cell phones in the car.
I learned to drive with my parents, in our old vehicles on country roads where I had room to make mistakes. I’m glad for those experiences. I can joke about the stories now, but I’m also aware that safe driving is a serious matter and not something to be taken for granted. It’s great companies like State Farm are raising awareness about the many ways we can be better drivers.
What wet weather driving wisdom would you share with your student drivers—or your neighbours?
I received compensation for this post; all opinions expressed are my own.