Tis the season again – Be careful out there

 Tis the season again – Be careful out there

It's been a long and busy week with two big road trips this past week  – one in the Roadtrek eTrek to Kitchener, Ontario and a visit to the Roadtrek factory for some video work, the other to Pittsburgh, PA on another video project. While the Kitchener trip was blessed with great weather, the Pittsburgh trip led to some very white knuckle driving on the way back home when we unexpectedly encountered near white-out conditions from Lake Erie effect snow squalls just est of Cleveland.

It was a great reminder of how fast conditions can change when driving an interstate in the winter.

whitoutWe were on the Ohio Turnpike (I-80), an hour from Pittsburgh headed back to Michigan. When we left it was sunny and 39 degrees, according to my in-dash thermometer. An hour later, like someone turned a switch, the temperature had dropped to 27 degrees and we noticed snow flurries. Within a mile, those snow flurries had turned into a fierce squall and in a couple more miles, the road was snow covered and slippery and visibility had dropped to a couple hundred yards.

Yikes. The photo doesn't do justice to how lousy visibility was.

Twenty miles further down the Ohio Turnpike, the snow was gone and the road was clear.

As we listened to radio reports, we heard of car crashes all over. Such are the dangers of those sudden snow squalls.

Last year, coming back from a winter RV trip to Florida, we encountered a similar white-out north of Cincinnati on I-75. Traffic suddenly ground to a stop. I looked over on the southbound lanes and saw cars smashed and twisted everywhere. Over 100 vehicles had been involved. There were lots of injuries and a fatality.

My top three rules for winter driving:

1) Never drive faster than you can see. By that I mean that if you can only see a hundred yards up the road, you better not be going so fast that you can't stop in 100 yards.

2) Be aware of the road surface. If the snow is sticking, the pavement is slippery. There may be black ice covering the parts of the road where the surface shows through.

3) In a whiteout, do NOT pull over to the shoulder of the road and wait it out there. Carefully move over in the slow lane and take the next exit to get off the interstate as soon as you can if you are the least bit apprehensive about your ability to control the vehicle.

As our travels this week reminded us, like it or not, winter is here.

Be careful out there!




Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at RVLifestyle.com. He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.


  • Great advise Mike! Another couple of points to add.
    Cruise control goes off as soon as it even looks wet or slippery.

    No tailgating, leave lots of room in front and control the vehicle behind you by slowing down gently.

    Have fun and teach kids how to make Snow Angles!

  • So many people think they can drive 80 all year it is unbelievable and its not in just one state, they forget how to drive in winter weather from year to year. The key here is to just slow down is it really worth your life to get there 20 minutes sooner.

  • Just so you know what your Sprinter can do here’s a link to a YouTube video of a driver trying to unstick a Sprinter http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCOyIAu5WyQ.
    The van can do a lot in snow, and the braking system does wonders keeping the van upright. No vehicle is good in ice, and we also have no control over what other drivers will try to do to you. So, as Mike says, “Be careful out there!”

  • Found you on twitter and I am glad I did, great articles! Out here in the West the first few winter storms have passed through already. A couple weeks ago we made the trek over the Sierras via Carson Pass (CA 89). There were no chain restrictions but there was still ice at the top. Definitely makes you hope that the equipment is operating in top form! For your rule 1 I actually would say that you should never drive faster than you can safely stop. Just because you can see that big rig slam on its brakes up ahead does not mean you can stop in time to avoid the pileup. May I be so bold as to add a 4th suggestion? 4. Plan ahead, if you have the chance travel on days and at times that allow you to avoid inclement weather.

  • Although the Sprinter snow drifting was a little childish, it does bring to mind an important aspect of winter driving; know what YOU are capable of and what YOUR VEHICLE is capable of. Having a big wide open abandoned parking lot to do braking tests, sliding test, acceleration tests, etc… really helps.

    One other thing I have just learned on one of the Sprinter forums was the proper use of the ASR on/off control. Read up on it, it may actually save you in a “stuck” situation.

  • I believe you had the same view Jake Franssen, enjoy your trip!

  • that’s every day here in co.

  • Taking pics while driving is probably a bad idea too lol.

  • Be

  • Be safe

  • don’t want to be driving in this kind of weather…..be safe and take care

  • I looked out morning and said “s—t!” Wife says, “No, that is SNOW.”

  • Where?

  • Sleet n snowing in Indiana

  • We woke up to snow in Okla. 🙁 Starting out on our last trip of this year in the morning. 🙂

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