Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Driving in snow is a skill, it's not like normal driving on dry or even wet roads, no, and there's more to it than just going slowly, although that helps.

I'm not sure who told me the rules for driving in snow, whether it was my parents (who had the delightful task of helping me to learn to drive a long, long time ago - back before they'd added nasty, sneaky things onto the test like the theory test and parallel (gulp) parking) or Simon...but I've always been aware that you should get into a higher gear as quickly as possible when moving off (but not with heaps of power) and when planning to slow down or stop to get into a low gear as quickly as possible - all this means is that you use the engine to slow the car down and don't have to jump on the brakes quickly.

I thought the Germans would all be prefectly trained at driving in snow, afterall the rest of life in Germany seems perfectly ordered - dogs are trained to walk off the lead next to the owner (Logan will, but at the first whiff of a squirrel or a cat and he'd be off, completely forgetting his green cross code and me) children take themselves to school and between buildings for lessons without supervision or bunking off, the leaves are all collected as soon as they've had the temerity to fall off the trees, bakers are open every day (bar about 2 weirdly exceptional bank holidays) I'm not just talking about trains running on time here. So I just kind of thought that as Germany is better prepared for snow than the UK (winter tyres, snow ploughs, gritters, non slip boots, pavement clearing) then surely there must be mandatory 'learn to drive in snow' lessons, especially as Germans love their BMWs (rear wheel drive and notoriously crap for driving in the snow). But no. And I have proof!!

Last week a day after a severe dumping of snow I was walking back along our road with Logan. Our road is not a main road, and not even a cut-through, the people who use it tend to live on it, so it doesn't get much traffic, it gets even less traffic after snow because unlike the 2 roads it joins it doesn't get plowed or gritted, it just gets compacted.
Today, one week on from the dumping, I think there's at least 2 inches solid ice on the road. Back to last week, as I walked along I saw a white BMW softtop almost at right angles to the pavement, stationary. As I got closer, the driver's window slid down and a woman appeared, a typical Kettwig 50+ hausfrau, all blonde hair and permatanned face, she was struggling to make her car go in the right direction, and as she floored the accelerator I could understand why. I was not at all keen to try to push the car straight, didn't trust her at all, so I told her she needed to go slow, VERY SLOW. This she did, and gradually the car straightened up and started to go in the direction she wanted it, she gave me a thumbs up sign and floored it again....
'LANGSAM*' I bellowed after her 'LANGSAM'.
I did enjoy that, legitimate shouting at Germans!
It was the highlight of last week!

Does your car have traction control? Mine does. Does you car have a light that comes on to distract you from the road when the traction control senses a loss in grip due to road conditions? Mine does. Does your car beep annoyingly when the aforementioned light comes on just to further distract you from the road? Mine does.
Why? That's what I want to know. You'd have to be really unaware of what was going on with your car if you need a light and a beep to draw attention to the fact that your car is no longer travelling smoothly in the direction that you're looking. All the light and the beep do is add another distraction to a suddenly tense situation, like you really need to be told, twice, that the reason you're no longer going straight on is because the traction control isn't working.

Simon loves driving in snow. He has an Audi Quattro so it's 'fun'. What isn't fun is being a passenger when he's driving in the snow, he might be in control and have fully intended for the car to have slid like that, but if I want a white knuckle ride I'll pay for it thank you very much, theme parks do it so much better! I don't think passing pedestrians enjoy the experience either, they're not to know that this great black car sliding around up the road is actually being carefully driven...

I still think the best advice of all for driving in snow is to stay home, why go out and risk it? I'm sure there's nothing urgent, nothing that can't wait.

*see word for the day

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