Ten Tips for Avoiding an Interstate Pileup

Guest Bloggers

Guest Bloggers | Jan 23, 2015

Guest Post by Jim Graham

Editor’s note: No matter what state you live in, it’s always the drivers from next door who are worse, right? In this guest blog post, New Hampshire writer Jim Graham shares his tale of near-impalement-by-SUV, as he had the misfortune of being an involuntary participant in a 35-car Interstate pileup that made national news recently. Here’s his tale—and a few great tips, to boot.

New Hampshire residents try to give Massachusetts drivers a break. It’s the least we can do when you consider all the dough they spend every weekend when they hightail it north out of there to vacation here in the Granite State.

But if it weren’t for four measly inches, my son, his buddy and I could have been toast thanks to a couple of those SUV-driving knuckleheads.

Here’s the scoop. A few weeks ago, Northern New England featured a snow squall that coated the highway in a sheet of ice, causing 35 vehicles to crash and sending 13 people to the hospital.

My 13-year-old son, his friend and I were about four inches away from being patients 14, 15 and 16.

Talk about close! We were at the tail end of the big pileup and able to slow down just in time to avoid it – and then, escaped being rammed from behind by two SUVs traveling far, far too fast for the conditions. Seeing those land yachts fish-tailing and bearing down on us in the rearview mirror was, as we New Englanders say, “Dang scary.”

Luckily, each of them skidded right past us on either side, narrowly missing my car by inches.

Car Talk blogger not pictured. (Associated Press)

It was easily the closest I’ve come to being in a major crash.

If you live in a place like New Hampshire, Minnesota, or Montana, you already know what I’m about to say next. For all of you, consider this a refresher because, well, we all could use it. For everyone else, here are my 10 tips that just might save your life. Or mine.

  • When a sudden snow squall hits, SLOW DOWN! It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the snow coming down and the ice building up (and in my case it was still hard to stop even when I reacted early and with caution). Slowing down in just a few flurries is always a good idea.
  • Tailgating is never cool. But it is exceedingly asinine and dangerous in snow and ice.
  • Four-wheel-/all-wheel-drive is great for helping you move forward through snow. It does NOT help you make emergency stops on ice!
  • Repeat: Four-wheel drive does NOT help you stop fast in ice and snow. Nothing does. And because of their bulky weight, SUVs take even longer to stop. Remember that basic law of physics: Mass x inertia x snow squall = SLOW the *&%*  DOWN.



  • "All-season" tires work just as crappy on ice and snow on a four-wheel-drive SUV as they do on any other car.
  • Man, it must cost a boatload to buy a fancy new SUV. If you’ve got that kind of dough, spend a little more and get really good snow tires. I swear by Blizzaks – and, indeed, my son says I was swearing quite vociferously during the incident.
  • Replace your snow tires when the ice-gripping tread wears out. (They have these great little wear indicators built right into the tread, so it’s easy to tell.)
  • With decent snow tires, my two-wheel-drive Honda Fit did way better than those SUVs in stopping and maintaining control.
  • For God's sake, pay attention when you're driving. We could see the snow starting to fall, then fall thicker, and thicker… And quickly building up. I had already slowed down from 65mph to about 50mph or less, but when I tapped my brakes to test things out – whoa! The slight hint of slipperiness told me it was time to slow downeven more.
  • When you kill someone because you're driving like a dumbass in terrible road conditions, there's no taking it back.



You can see more winter driving tips from Car Talk, right here.

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