February 13, 2012
By Jordan W. Charness
Peter looked like he had seen a ghost. He was pale, sweaty and even hyperventilating a little bit. That was all a little strange since it was 10 o’clock in the morning on a bright and sunny day. I was kind of interested as to what had happened to him this time.
We brought him a nice calming mug of jasmine tea to relax and comfort him. It worked its magic and in about 10 minutes he was ready enough to tell his tale. Peter usually drives a big four-wheel-drive SUV during the winter. But on the occasional sunny day he likes to take his Mustang GT for a spin, even though it’s “out of season.”
These two vehicles are not at all alike and drive in completely different ways. While the SUV is fairly surefooted and sticks to the road in all but the most slippery of conditions, the Mustang is a high-performance, high-powered rear-wheel drive car with lots of get up and go… on dry pavement. Just a touch on the accelerator can send an awful lot of power to those oversized rear tires.
Since it was so beautiful out and most of the streets appeared dry, Peter began to forget that it was still winter and that he should stay in winter driving mode no matter which car he was driving.
In fact the law always requires that your driving be modified to take into account weather and road conditions. This general rule supersedes speed limits and generally makes an attempted defence of, “There was ice and I slid through a stop sign,” virtually useless.
Since it was bright, sunny and beautiful, Peter assumed that all the roads were as dry and bare as the ones in front of his home. By the time he got to the highway, which really was bare and dry, he was back to driving the Mustang the way he did in the summer with an aggressive use of both accelerator and brakes.
All was going well until he came to the exit from the highway, which was one of those big circular off-ramps. While he didn’t exceed the speed limit, he did take the muscle car into the turn at the highest allowable speed and then brake and power around the curve. As soon as he hit the gas pedal the rear wheels hit an icy patch and spun the car out of control. His car did a full 360 before coming to a stop on the grassy snowy patch beside the road.
Peter was really lucky. During his wild ride he did not hit another car nor did he cause any damage to his own beloved Mustang. If he had caused an accident or damage to another’s property, he would have been held fully liable for the accident. He would probably have been charged with dangerous driving for failing to take into account the way his car would handle and the fact that there could likely be icy conditions that he might fail to see.
Chances are if he’d been driving the SUV he would have been driving more slowly and in a more controlled way. That car itself, being four-wheel drive, would probably not have spun out and Peter’s blood pressure would have stayed on a much more even keel!