Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine. A police officer, working in the small town that he lives in, focusing on family and shooting and coffee, and occasionally putting some people in jail.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Pucker factor.

TXDOT and the local town sanding crews did a nice job of giving some traction during the Great Morning of North Texas Ice, 2009.

Lulls you into a sense of complacency, it does.

As I came off an exit prior to a flying overpass, I was late to discover that the offramp was elevated, and unsanded.

A lonnnnng period of skidding ensued, in which I began overtaking the minivan ahead of me.

I was in my patrol car, which has antilock brakes that instantly kicked in with their long groan, seemingly ineffectively. I dropped the automatic transmission down a gear, standing on the brakes, still impressed that the car was actually steering through the slight curve of the off-ramp.

The offramp was long; about 300 yards, with almost half of it elevated, or so it seemed.

I watched my distance to the minivan shrink to 50 yards, keenly aware of the downhill grade that would make the ramp unsafe at my now-unchecked highway speed, even without the ice. When that van hit unelevated ramp, I figured that it would slow much faster, and that I'd be toast. I heard very clearly the announcement of "Brace For Impact" in my head. Divider walls on each side made bailout impossible. I decided that I would try to use the divider wall to slow myself just as I would impact the other car. I edged left, staying squarely pointed ahead.

Finally, I noticed that I was slowing.

I matched speeds with the minivan, then slowed below its speed, and realized that we were both now on non-elevated off-ramp by this time. I kept on the brakes, to increase my following distance to over 50 yards, even at the now-crawling speed of about 8 mph. I then regularly tapped my brakes, to let everyone behind me know I was slowing dramatically. I didn't feel okay until I got to the intersection, with several lanes around me and numerous bailout destinations, should another car find himself sliding down that off-ramp. I tried to call to get that ramp sanded, but the line was busy three times. I gave up.

Although it was actually worse last night, when I was called out to an emergency, I was more prepared for that to be terrible (raining wet at 25 degrees makes you prepare for the worst. 2 hours at the hospital put half an inch of window-pane clear ice on my windshield), and had no problems.

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At Thursday, January 29, 2009 6:33:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm imagining what it must have looked like in the rear view mirror of that minivan!

Geez, Matt, don't have this month turn out to be memorable for your being in a body cast!

Only accident in my life was a 20+ pileup in Korea on elevated ice on the way to Kimpo Airport. Not injured, but can see it like it was yesterday.

You'll think of that ramp many times in the future, I'm sure.

At Monday, February 02, 2009 8:28:00 AM, Blogger John B said...

I'll just take an asprin for my incipient heart attack. I'm driving a mercury sable station wagon while my new bug is in the shop. I miss Electronic Skid Protection and those 2005 antilock brakes. Plus I had a small flashback, and damn near choked on my Dr Pepper.

I'm ready for winter to be over...
How 'bout you?

At Sunday, February 08, 2009 6:24:00 AM, Blogger KD5NRH said...

I'm just thinking of the number of cops I've seen who would have hit the lights and siren, then blamed the wreck on the minivan driver for failing to yield.

At Sunday, February 08, 2009 7:55:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

Wow! Jaded, much? :)

I wouldn't want to do that-- people get scared and often panic brake when the flashies go off behind them. Could actually *CAUSE* a wreck, in those conditions.


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