Iced-over roads + people who can’t drive = very expensive (and dangerous) game of billiards


Unbelievable video of people in Portland, OR who should know better trying to drive down an icy road. (Direct WMV link. Interview with the person who shot the video, but you're going to have to put up with the inane local news-anchor chatter. That last link includes images of cars that, yup, struck the fire truck.)

It's as if these people had lost control of all rational thought. When your car slowly skids to a halt after crashing into a half dozen stopped cars and other roadside obstacles, your brain should be telling you, "Boy, that was a really stupid idea. I should stop now before I kill myself or a pedestrian." You do not punch the gas and accelerate into other cars like it's a demolition derby.

I hope their insurance company sees this video.

Comments (64)
  1. Tom says:

    Great video.

    I live in Michigan, and we get icy roads every winter.  Once I saw a car coming through a red light at a busy intersection SLIDING OUT OF CONTROL BACKWARDS.  By some miracle, nobody got hurt, but it was a real lesson for me having seen this right in front of my eyes.

    I agree that people overestimate their ability to control their car on icy roads.  No driver and no car is any match for super icy roads.

  2. Alien426 says:

    Just image you were one of the smart people who left their cars standing and took public transportation. Then they return and find that some cars slammed into their parked car.

  3. Gabe says:

    In all fairness, it was a hill, and those applying gas may have been trying to go in reverse or something.

    Of course, it seemed that most of the vehicles losing control were trucks (SUVs) whose owners didn’t realize that being twice as heavy makes them 4 times harder to stop on ice.

  4. My sister just told me that that video showed up on her local news in Albany, NY.

  5. Adrian says:

    Sigh.  Video appears slashdotted–er, Raymonded?  Chenned?  Old-new-thinged?

  6. Maurits says:

    being twice as heavy makes them 4 times harder to stop on ice.

    Bingo!

  7. Keith Moore says:

    I saw a news report on TV a few days ago, shot somewhere in the Seattle area. An SUV was stuck on the side of the road, wedged against the curb, and the driver couldn’t get it to move. One of the newscrew offered to help — he jumped in, engaged the four-wheel-drive, and smoothly drove away.

    The SUV’s owner didn’t know how to engage the 4WD in his own vehicle…

  8. Today is one of the first significantly cold days this winter here in the Boston area – whilst other…

  9. jeffdav says:

    The people standing around shooting video should have blocked off the street.  It was obviously too dangerous to have people driving on.  

  10. njkayaker says:

    "In all fairness, it was a hill, and those applying gas may have been trying to go in reverse or something"

    This looks like it was a very unusual situation. It looks like it was very slippery and over a very wide area.

  11. njkayaker says:

    Note how long a few cars were able to travel sideways.

  12. Grant says:

    "The people standing around shooting video should have blocked off the street.  It was obviously too dangerous to have people driving on."

    It is not their job, their responsibility, or their duty to block a public road. In fact, blocking a public road is probably in violation of some law or other (lawmakers are silly like that, they don’t like when civilians with no authority block roads).

    Even if you could somehow justify a civilian blocking a public road, it would most likely be incredibly dangerous and potentially lead to even more accidents.

  13. Actually if you watch the interview video, the guy who shot the footage says that he went out with his wife and started diverting traffic a few minutes later.

  14. Scott says:

    I enjoyed that one knowing that nobody was seriously hurt.

    The best I’ve seen in Seattle was a couple of years ago when an astounding 4" of snow shut down the city. They sent out "Danger" Jim Foreman in "Snow King 5" to report conditions in Seattle. At one point, not sure if it was "Danger" Jim or not, a television van was filming a car sliding down, I believe it was Spring street, in downtown Seattle into a parked car. While the television crew was broadcasting live, they slid into the car that slid into the parked car.

  15. Thomas says:

    There’s a video that gets shown in the UK every so often, of a dustbin lorry drifting, on ice, at about walking speed, and bouncing off cars, lamp-posts, signs, hedges, …

  16. njkayaker says:

    "It is not their job, their responsibility, or their duty to block a public road. In fact, blocking a public road is probably in violation of some law or other (lawmakers are silly like that, they don’t like when civilians with no authority block roads).

    Even if you could somehow justify a civilian blocking a public road, it would most likely be incredibly dangerous and potentially lead to even more accidents."

    A big part of the problem is that the roads in the video where on a fairly steep hill. The crashing cars managed to get here so keeping them out would -not- have "lead to more accidents".

    Blocking a highway might be a big deal but these were secondary roads. There would have been no problem blocking them. Yes, people have a responsibility and a social duty to try to do something about it.

    If a bridge was out on a highway, clearly doing -something- is warrented.

  17. Cody says:

    "Yes, people have a responsibility and a social duty to try to do something about it."

    That duty is to call the cops and report it so the properly equipped force can take care of it.

  18. MSDNArchive says:

    While this video is more dramatic, I got to watch similar events by my house.  I live at the bottom of a hill that was quite icy.  Car after car tried to climb the hill and lost control.  

    I talked to 3 people who asked the cops to close the hill, but they never did.  

    I put my beloved traffic code out to warn people off, but instead they just hit the cone on the way up.

    I put a flashing light on the cone to get their attention, and someone stole the light.

    Finally, 48 hours after the snow began, a truck sanded the hill and it became navigable again.

    There’s a road that makes a sharp turn on a hill right next to Microsoft that was closed for days.  (31st & 152nd, for you locals).

  19. Sylveste says:

    "That duty is to call the cops and report it so the properly equipped force can take care of it."

    Nice. Know your place, civilian!

  20. Andy says:

    I live in Portland and I couldn’t believe the sheer stupidity of the people on the road yesterday.

    I grew up in MN, ND, and Finland where driving on ice and snow is an every day thing in the winter. I have an SUV with real chains, not these wire things people around here try and pass off for chains, and I had no problems getting up and down any of the hills. Most of the time I didn’t even have to put it into 4wd.

    The worst part of being out was the other drivers OMG! I have never seen people acting so dumb in the snow before! That video you linked was what it was like all over town. It was absolutely unreal! Even cop cars were crashing into other people vehicles. I can’t believe even the cops out here can’t drive on snow.

    I stopped by subway to get a sandwich last night and the girl said she took the bus not because she couldn’t drive on snow but because she was afraid one of the crazy people out there would hit her car. I don’t blame her.

  21. RyanBemrose says:

    Cody – For a citywide emergency, the police force doesn’t scale.  I’d like to know that my neighbors are out doing what needs to be done (rerouting traffic) while the police are handling things my neighbors aren’t equipped for.

  22. Candy says:

    Could you somehow get the link to work for people who don’t/can’t use WMP for playing the video? I keep getting the same indirection data.

    [Um, why are you asking me? Ask KING 5 TV; they’re the ones providing the video. All I did was link to it. -Raymond]
  23. Cody says:

    Ryan – I’d rather that people that are trained to deal with managing citizens and have the authority to do such risk being run over than standing out there myself.

    "I put my beloved traffic cone out to warn people off, but instead they just hit the cone on the way up.

    I put a flashing light on the cone to get their attention, and someone stole the light."

    That tells me the average person wouldn’t listen to me if I tried to tell them "You can’t go that way, it’s too dangerous."  They may, however, listen to Barney Fife.

    Barney Fife could also tell the news and radio stations to tell the citizens to avoid such and such area and to stay in their homes and not risk more accidents.  Channel 5 doesn’t care when I call up saying there are cars slip and sliding on my street.

  24. IgnorantYank says:

    <i> There’s a video that gets shown in the UK every so often, of a dustbin lorry drifting, on ice, at about walking speed, and bouncing off cars, lamp-posts, signs, hedges, … </i>

    Yeah, well, that doesn’t sound so bad. Imagine how bad it would be if that happened with a <b>garbage truck</b>!

  25. Volvo V70 Driver says:

    <i>I grew up in MN, ND, and Finland where driving on ice and snow is an every day thing in the winter. I have an SUV with real chains, not these wire things people around here try and pass off for chains, and I had no problems getting up and down any of the hills. </i>

    The owners manual on my AWD Volvo V70 Cross Country wagon makes this extremely clear: under NO circumstances are you to put chains onto this vehicle.

    Seeing how slow Bellevue is to get sand trucks and snow plows out to my neighborhood, I am about to look into studded tires.

  26. njkayaker says:

    "[rather than] risk being run over than standing out there myself"

    Well, obviously, don’t do something that would put you at real risk. No one is suggesting that you do something that would put you at risk.

    "That tells me the average person wouldn’t listen to me"

    The responsibility to listen is theirs.

    "They may, however, listen to Barney Fife"

    But it could take hours to get "Barney Fife". Even in situations that were less wide-spread. No one is suggesting that the police should not be informed.

  27. kfarmer says:

    Andy:  Remember that Portland and Seattle are both near large bodies of water which generally keep us moist and above freezing.  We’re used to repeated flooding (and the occasional volcanic eruption), not Hans Brinker.  

    Sure, it happens.  Maybe once or twice a decade unless you head over the Cascades.  Also, unlike the mid-west, we actually have hills around here (my purgatory was spent in the incredible flatness of Indiana).

    I saw vehicles unable to get up extremely gentle slopes, and a friend nearly lost a car that had been stopped at the bottom of a hill to put on chains, but which started to slide despite it all.  

    The peanut gallery doesn’t realize just how bad the roads were, or how steep our terrain is.  There’s no comparison when you’re having to fight gravity, intertia, and frictionless roadways.

    Could people do better in this situation?  Yes, but they need practice.  That need is often unfulfilled by the weatherman.

  28. Mir says:

    Xodus:  I beg to differ.  San Diego might not get the snow but heaven help you if it rains.  Nothing like getting rear ended because someone was speeding down a hill in the rain and couldn’t stop in time.

    I can’t believe people on the road sometimes.  Big snow storm hits NY and I’m driving at a comfy 40mph on the highway and this hulking SUV careens past me doing something like 70mph and cuts me off…  People get looney in inclement weather.  Rain, snow, ice… all notions of how to drive just go out the window.

  29. JamesW says:

    Almost ten years ago, I had a part time job working as a postman in Aberdeen, Scotland. One night in May it rained hard in the night, but the skies cleared and all the water froze over in the small hours. It was a bit unexpected, so there had been no gritters out. Being a postman I had to leave home at 4:40am – it was a fun drive. Just like that video, hardly any grip at all – the car would start sliding out when cornering at 20mph. Still I managed the 12 miles to work, and arrived in one piece. My technique in such conditions is to avoid the brakes – lift off the throttle to slow down instead. Of course this means planning quite some distance ahead, which seems beyond the capability of many motorists. Icy roads don’t trouble me much any more though – it’s 31C in the shade where I am at the moment. Not bad for January in the northern hemisphere.

  30. Ryan S says:

    > being twice as heavy makes them 4 times harder to stop on ice.

    Uh… I think you’ve got your physics mixed up. Being twice as heavy gives you twice as much kinetic energy, making you twice as hard to stop. But then again, if you restrict the discussion to braking ability, you’ve got twice as much force pushing your tires against the ground, so it evens out.

    It’s going twice as *fast* that makes it 4 times harder to stop.

  31. Xodus says:

    Down here in San Diego, nothing like this happens :D *hugs self*

    But one time we did have a flooded street, the news were there, and they told everyone to avoid the place at all costs.

    I called into a local radio station, told them, within a few minutes, they stuck it on air, and repeated it like every 10 minutes!

  32. Massif says:

    A friend of mine told the story of how, while driving downhill on icy roads, he suddenly noticed that the back end of his rear-engined car had overtaken the front end.

    He slid the entire length of the hill, down a narrow street (a foot or so front and back to the parked cars) sideways. Apparently without causing any damage to anything. Since then he’s taken winter conditions very very seriously.

  33. James says:

    JamesW: I had similar experiences a few years ago in the rural areas to the West of Perth, on roads remote enough that snowploughs and gritters very rarely visited. It was snowing here in Dundee most of the morning (and in Perth, when I set off for work), but not lying; quite a few snow-covered cars, though, so there’s obviously a lot of snow on the ground to the North of here.

  34. Maurits says:

    Being twice as heavy gives you twice as much kinetic energy, making you twice as hard to stop

    And you do twice as much damage when you hit something.  Like a smaller car.

  35. cK says:

    It’s not the weather’s fault.  People are just dumb when it comes to driving in the snow.  Most people on the road have no comprehension of physics.  "A body in motion stays in motion" especially in a slick surface (no friction).  About 99% of SUV owners have an ego problem.  They believe that their 4×4 SUV can get through anything.  haha.  I live in Michigan and every winter I see SUV get stuck on the shoulder, drove into a ditch or driving 70mph on icy surface only to see them in an accident.  It’s fine if they want to kill themselves but they shouldn’t take other people with them.  SUV owners piss me off to no end.  Every time I see one get stranded on the shoulder of a highway I would chuckle.  LOL!  SUVs are probably good to get through about 4" of snow, after that it’s useless, then again, most cars can get through 4" of snow.  One time I drove on the express way going about 15mph going diagonally in my rear-wheel drive Mustang GT.  All the other cars would not dare to pass me and was afraid I would crash in to them.  But my skill allow me to exit the next exit without any problems.  How’s that for driving skills :)

  36. Kjartan says:

    This is by no means me trying to be disrespectfull, but do people in the states not use studded tires in the winter? When its this icy out there you really need studded tires.

    Although as a person living where there is usually 4-8 inches of snow everywhere from january through march, what you really must be carefull about is no sudden movements of any kind. Not pressing the gas pedal, brakes or turning the wheel quickly, these will all result in accidents.

    But I do agree that people who do not have cars that are euqipped properly for these circumstances (4×4 and ABS are not a substitute for proper tires) should use public transport and not think of moving the car.

  37. Coderjoe says:

    A number of years ago, I was going from Grand Rapids, MI over to Detroit. The roads and expressway were quite slick most of the way. Around Lansing, some idiot in a red Mustang decided that I wasn’t going fast enough and tried to pass. He successfully changed lanes. Then his car began to rotate and he wound up plowing into the median, stuck in the snow.

    And 4×4 will not do a bit of good when the body of the vehicle is resting on the snow (or mud or whatever).

    Regarding snow tires: in normally warmer climes, the roads are not bad very often. Having a separate set of tires generally is a waste of money. However, in areas where it gets very cold and icy during the winter, such as Michigan’s upper peninsula, most people do have snow tires, to my knowledge.

  38. Igor says:

    Ryan S, 2x heavier vehicle is more prone to skid regardless of having better contact with ground because higher mass results in higher inertia.

  39. Dan McCarty says:

    Kjartan: some (most?) US states outlow studded snow tires because they tear up the roads.  The solution is to buy studless snow tires.  I have two rear wheel drive cars, and having snow tires on them in the winter makes a HUGE difference when driving.

  40. Cooney says:

    The peanut gallery doesn’t realize just how bad the roads were, or how steep our terrain is.  There’s no comparison when you’re having to fight gravity, intertia, and frictionless roadways.

    I live in seattle, so I’m qualified to bitch. Sure, icy roads are a pain to drive on – you need good tires and you have to drive slow. Regardless, people drive like idiots around here, so I really have no sympathy.

    I especially have no sympathy for the dolt in the video who accelerated into a utility pole, then hit a wall and slid down the hill.

  41. Gabe says:

    Kjartan, the problem is largest in areas that are not covered with snow for months at a time. Nobody drives around Portland with studded tires (aside from probably being illegal) because it’s not needed well over 99% of the time.

  42. James Schend says:

    Kjartan, it only snows in Western Washington maybe once every 4-5 years, and typically the snow sticks for one day then instantly melts. We very rarely have ice as bad as this, maybe once every 10 years. Owning studded tires just isn’t economical, it’s easier to just stay at home and drink cocoa when this happens.

    Now, considering our growth rate, and that 95% of it comes from California, in 10 years, something like 25% of the population have moved here from California where it never snows. Those are the people who 1) have no experience driving in snow and 2) are big enough jerks to go out and be a danger to others instead of staying home. Freakin’ Californians.

  43. Cooney says:

    Igor

    2x heavier vehicle is more prone to skid regardless of having better contact with ground because higher mass results in higher inertia.

    Higher mass also means more pressure against the road = more traction, and they tend to have larger tires = more traction.

  44. "The SUV’s owner didn’t know how to engage the 4WD in his own vehicle"

    I can vouch for this, repeatedly: http://slashdot.org/~Sax+Maniac/journal/123983

  45. cK says:

    Larger tires does not equate to more traction when the road is icy or frozen.  All the traction is thrown out of the window, thus the 2x the inertia applies.

  46. Cooney says:

    Larger tires does not equate to more traction when the road is icy or frozen.

    Yes it does. You’ve got more contact patch to grip with.

  47. Mike Swaim says:

    Kjartan,

     The US is a lot bigger than European countries (where I assume that you’re from), and most of it’s a lot farther south. (For example, Houston, TX, where I live is the same latitude as Cairo, Egypt.) I’ve lived in Alabama, and Texas my whole life, and can remember having any snow accumilation only a handful of times.

     A lot of us just don’t see ice on the roads very often, and when we do, it’s usually gone in a couple of hours. (That was my solution to the storm that blew through Texas this week. All of the ice on the roads was gone by 10:00.)

  48. David Smith says:

    I’m reminded of the classic film from the Battle of the Bulge (that’s WWII, December 1944 for ahistorical folks) showing an M4 Sherman medium tank ever-so-slowly sliding along an ice-glazed road like a curling rock. Weight? Contact area? Don’t mean sh_t on ice once you’ve started to slide.

  49. Kjartan says:

    You are correct in assuming I’m in Europe, I live in Iceland (although don’t let that fool you the temp rarely goes below 5°C) but still from the midle of october we can assume that there is ice on the road until april from december/january we can assume snow untill middle of march beginning of april. I personally don’t use studded tires but most people here do and they are legal since the government feels that peoples lives are more expensive than asphalt, but I have experience in driving in these circumstances.

    I know that probably 95% of the States never see snow except maybe every 5th year or so, but the northernmost states probably get snow every year so people there really need to know how to drive when the roads are like this.

    The first rule is, never do anything suddenly, don’t apply brakes suddenly, don’t accelerate suddenly, don’t try to steer suddenly, once you make a sudden movement the tires lose grip, no matter how good they are, and they don’t gain grip again untill you have come to a complete stop and all your tires have stopped spinning.

    If you are driving an automatic that helps since releasing the clutch to suddenly can be very dangerous and you can set the automatic to the second lowest setting and thereby force the transmission to be a bit more gentle since its more dificult for the engine to get the revs up when trying to push it in a higher gear.

    But the best thing in these conditions is that the municipal authority sand/salt the roads, here in Iceland that is done to increase safety. If it is very unlikely that it will be snowing again before the ice goes away sand really helps. But if there is a likelyhood of more snow or ice salt is better becouse it melts the ice and thereby giving you a better suface to drive on

    ;)

    [Despite being in a northern state, there are many years where Seattle gets no snow at all, and the years when it does snow, it’s usually very little. -Raymond]
  50. Kjartan says:

    That was supposed to be -5°C

  51. Gabe says:

    I was just in San Francisco over the weekend and thinking about how great it is that the roads there never get icy. On the other hand, some of those 30% slopes could be really fun if it were possible to get up them.

  52. rob says:

    having lived both east and west of the rockies, i can observe that the snow is actually different in the northeast. because the climate is much colder and drier in the east, the roads tend to be much stickier when they’re covered, and the ice sublimates rapidly, so they tend to dry out quickly. on the west coast, the snow has the consistency of thick grease.

    not to mention that eastern cities have massive sanding/plowing budgets and are equipped to deal with snow quickly and efficiently. in victoria, where i’m from, it can take weeks for the few plows to hit all the streets, and the snow usually melts after 12 hours anyway.

    for my part, i have an suv with good tires. when it snows, i either drive at a snail’s pace or not at all.

    incidentally, it’s not a bad idea to practice losing and regaining control of a vehicle in the snow… just not on a city street!

  53. Cooney says:

    David:

    I’m reminded of the classic film from the Battle of the Bulge (that’s WWII, December 1944 for ahistorical folks) showing an M4 Sherman medium tank ever-so-slowly sliding along an ice-glazed road like a curling rock. Weight? Contact area? Don’t mean shit on ice once you’ve started to slide.

    Tanks have a fairly low PSI, and their treads are probably not optimized for ice so much as mud and dirt.

  54. Miles Archer says:

    Looks like Curling more than billiards to me.

    Oh, and the guy who that SF would be fun with ice – Berkeley, which is across the bay, has some large hills, though not in the downtown area. About 20 years ago there was black ice on a hill near the football stadium. The cops closed the road. That didn’t prevent one of them from deciding that since they he was a cop, the laws (of physics) didn’t apply to him. He drove up and slid backwards down the road, bouncing off cars. It was amusing to watch considering that I was on foot.

  55. Cooney says:

    A year or two back, some car company (may have been audi) covered a particularly famously windy, steep road in SF with ice just to prove how groovy their AWD was. Of course, spike tires help that a lot, just like when Audi had the commercial where they drove up a ski jump.

  56. Ryan S says:

    Igor

    Ryan S, 2x heavier vehicle is more prone to skid regardless of having better contact with ground because higher mass results in higher inertia.

    Any freshman-level physics course will show where you’re wrong. The maximum force provided by static (non-sliding) friction between the tire and the road is directly proportional to the magnitude of the normal force between the two.

    Double the braking force, double the mass, and the net acceleration remains the same.

  57. C Gomez says:

    I feel many of those drivers should be prosecuted.  It goes beyond an accident and becomes criminal negligence.

  58. Ry Jones says:

    Hi! I live in the Seattle area and I own studded snow tires. Not only that, but I put them on when it’s legal (and take them off when winter has passed). To say it isn’t economical is a joke – a set of studded snow tires will cost a few hundred bucks and will last several years. Compare the cost of a set of (permanently mounted) studded tires to the annoyance of dealing with insurance companies when you’re getting your car repaired; I’m certain studded snow tires come out ahead.

    As for being illegal, there are only a few states where they are illegal. They’re even legal in (gasp!) California; try navigating Donner Pass when it snows, the CHP will stop people without four wheel drive and studs or chains.

    As for prosecuting drivers – I’m all for it, let’s start with the thousands of idiots that abandonded cars all over the Puget Sound.

  59. Strap-on chains for your shoes.

  60. Craig says:

    Nice site!

  61. Adrianna says:

    Good design!

  62. Cory says:

    Well done!

  63. Michael J. says:

    This is by no means me trying to be disrespectfull,

    but do people in the states not use studded tires

    in the winter? When its this icy out there you really

    need studded tires.

    Using studded tires is rare in U.S. Many people don’t even know what you are talking about when you say "studded tire". Even more, most people do not care to use two sets of tires (summer and winter) and use all-season junk year round.

    Kjartan: some (most?) US states outlow studded snow tires

    Some, not most. Studded tires are completely prohibited only in FL, HI, MI, MN, WI. In Michigan only police and ambulance vehicles are allowed to use studs. Very stupid rules for a snowy state.

    The solution is to buy studless snow tires.  I have two

    rear wheel drive cars, and having snow tires on them in

    the winter makes a HUGE difference when driving.

    Studded tires are much better on ice, but worse on clean asphalt or concrete.

    [Californians] are the people who 1) have no experience

    driving in snow and 2) are big enough jerks to go out

    and be a danger to others instead of staying home.

    Freakin’ Californians.

    They cannot drive in rain either ;-)

    Larger tires does not equate to more traction when

    the road is icy or frozen.

    Rightfully so.

    > Larger tires does not equate to more traction when

    > the road is icy or frozen.

    Yes it does. You’ve got more contact patch to grip with.

    There is no grip. More contact -> less pressure -> you slide on snow/ice instead of having proper traction with the blacktop. Snow tires are always narrower than summer tires.

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