Through all my years of driving woods roads in all kind of conditions, I have always taken pride in my lack of finding the ditch and needing a pull. I always carry a chain or strap with me with full knowledge that I will be able to provide a service to someone who has found themselves in a predicament. Well one afternoon after some last-minute Christmas shopping, I was driving home with my 6-year-old in the back seat and rounded the feared gravel pit corner on my county road. This corner is narrow, blind and somewhat out sloped. It has claimed many victims in the past including the school bus a time or two. As I came into this corner singing my best rendition of “Here comes Santa Clause”, I found myself in a predicament. I had two choices, T bone the moron that decided to turn around in possibly the worst spot in the entire road system of Flathead County or swallow my pride and hit the ditch. With my choice made, I entered the ditch with full anticipation of being able to get myself out. I was wrong. As I was digging out my straps and shackles, the slow sinking feeling of desperation was settling in as I was the one that was in need of a tug.
So, you may ask, where are you going with this? As we all know, Montana has been found. There are more inexperienced drivers on the road now than ever in the state’s history. Most have little to no experience driving on snow. Log truck entering signs seem to attract them and they are more concerned about what’s happening on their phones than out the front window. It is becoming a huge problem and its going to get worse.
Now is more important than ever to drive defensively. Here are a couple quick tips to help you keep from playing bumper cars.
1. Plan Ahead- Know where you are going and plan your trip ahead of time. Sometimes a side road or bypass can take a little longer but you can avoid traffic.
2. Always Scan Your Surroundings- Keep your head on a swivel. Expect the unexpected. Check your mirrors and be aware of the vehicles that are around you.
3. Brake Early- Give yourself plenty of room and brake as soon as needed. You never know when someone will think they just saw a cast member from Yellowstone and will grenade their brakes.
4. Never Go on the Offensive- Don’t let other drivers’ aggressive tendencies rub off on to you. It will not help and more than likely will cause an accident
5. Don’t Get Distracted- The best way to avoid a collision is by paying full attention at all times. Put the phone down and drive.
As you navigate this new world we live in, always be prepared for the worst. Try not to let your anger get the best of you if you get in a wreck. If you are not running a dash cam, it may be a good time to think about getting one. Recently I was contacted by a truck that a car parked in town on the street opened his door right as the truck went by him. The door was quickly relocated to the street in front of the vehicle and the owner of the truck was glad to have a dashcam. It did not record the accident but it did have his speed recorded and showed he was not driving erratically.
Sometimes the ditch is the best answer, sometimes its not. You will have a split second to make a decision. After a friendly neighbor gave me a pull, I got back into my Jeep and headed for home. I was swallowing my pride when my little co-pilot in the back informed me that if I would have been in 4-wheel drive that we could have driven out of it. For me the ditch was the best even if I had to eat crow for a little while. Be safe out there and remember $afety $aves!