On Sunday, January 14th we left home for our youngest daughter's return to college. She insisted on driving the 160 mile trek.
As she drove she learned a few good lessons.
After driving over 100 miles, we heard our emergency alerts go off on our phones. I looked at my phone as she drove. I warned her.
Soon, a snow squawl hit. We went from sunshine with winds to a sudden massive blinding snow storm. It seemed to ease up. Then it came on even more intense, then covering the roadway. The highway was then suddenly covered with snow, creating icy conditions.
She went slow with lights on, flashers on and went no more than 40 mph. I told her to keep cars no less than 15 lengths ahead of her.
I told her to never pull over on the shoulder except if the car is completely disabled. Always look for an exit, when it gets too dangerous to drive and pull completely off the road. Yet, beware exits can usually surprise you, as they become treacherous in this type of weather. And to always assume all bridges are icy even when it seems clear whether over a body of water or not.
Then we approached a sudden accident site with multiple cars trying to stop. Too, trying to avoid a car facing in the opposite direction a quarter of that car was in the far left lane.
There were cars sliding behind us, in front of us, to the side towards us, diagnol in our direction along with the one car facing our direction one lane over. We had about two inches to clear to our left and about three inches to our right clear on the shoulder near one of the guard posts with steel rope lines used as guardrails.
She asked about feathering the brakes. I agreed. She feathered the brakes gently to 20 mph then to 15 mph and slowly pulled through cars that surely could of hit us. Due to the sudden icy conditions, no way could a complete stop occur.
I was stunned that no one hit us, and that we didn't hit the guardrail area.
The squawl came along with high winds. Toby was inexperienced in both areas. I'm used to handling both.
The high winds moved our car if you didn't have your hands on at 10 and 2. I reminded Toby her basics on this. And that a trooper would tell her that it is her responsibility to have complete control of the steering wheel. She adhered.
She listened to everything I instructed her to do in less than a second and implemented a safe path. I directed her as cars were going out of control, she handled it very well.
After the multi-car event it suddenly became sunny.
Not less than a few minutes later, we saw a mini van flipped over half in the right lane and half on the shoulder. I called 911 as they were taking care of the near misses we had just gone through. Evidently, others were not so lucky just moments before.
We couldn't stop for the people in van, it was unsafe as icy conditions prevailed along with sunshine gracing us suddenly.
And we couldn't go into the exit where we saw two men who'd pulled their car over in an icy and fresh snow area, just 200 yards past the minivan that now rested on its roof. It all had just unfolded, as snow and ice suddenly covered the highway and exits. I called 911 and gave them the mile marker and exit number after of the flipped minivan with details.
Toby did real good. She listened to everything I instructed her to do in less than a second, and implemented a path to safety.
Afterwards, she said to me, "I couldn't have been successful back there without you today." I reminded her that I used to drive tractor trailers and 5 tons forty years ago.😊😇
As well, I told her that back in late 1997 when cell phones were just emerging, I had this discussion with a retired NJ state trooper and former US Marine, as he was in between lifting sets and I had a break in my therapy work at a gym.
He and I agreed that even playing music in the car was a distraction. My daughter earlier in the drive didn't want to hear of it. However, after all that transpired my daughter agreed. I told her most long drives I might listen to music a third or less than my actual driving time, for safety reasons even in good weather.
The last half hour of the drive I reminisced to her that when I was in driver's ed with my permit nearly 45 years ago now. I had this super gym teacher named Ms. Caldwell. She took myself and another student out to practice driving as snow clouds hovered. After the other student finished his driving, we pulled over and I got into the driver's seat.
Soon we were off, me driving for the second time behind the wheel of a car. The snow arrived, then increased as Ms. Caldwell directed me and we then were on the Palisades Interstate Parkway. Ms. Caldwell in her very dry, calm voice said, "Jody, stay steady, there is a car ready to pass us and neither you or I could afford one it's tires." I digested the information.
To my left I saw the car passing me. As it did Ms. Caldwell continued calmly, "It's a Rolls Royce." Then as a squawl of snow picked up, the Rolls Royce pulled in front of us. And we came to a light before we exited off the highway, the fancy schmancy car then stopped in front of us. Ms. Caldwell said, "Good. Now turn right here." Needless to say, I was relieved.
Coming home alone January 14th, was better, but the wind remained brutal. The snow squawls lingered lightly.---Jody-Lynn Reicher