Living in areas of the US, with snow and ice during winter, drivers learn how to cope with freezing temperatures and bad road conditions.
In my job I will travel through states that don’t get much in the way of a freeze followed by a state that does have severe winter conditions. Sometimes in the same day.
I will let you in on a little secret that can make your travel safer and let you know when to start looking for a place to get off the road.
The secret is in the mirrors of big trucks.
If you want to know what is ahead of you on the highways you know to look at the oncoming traffic. When you see them coming at you covered in snow while your vehicle has been relatively dry you can be assured you are going into snow.
Today we traveled through Tennessee on I-40 from Memphis toward Nashville. The forecasts have been for rain and freezing rain turning to ice. Looking at the outside mirror on my side it wasn’t freezing yet.
When it is safe for you to do so, look at the outside mirror housing and bracket of big trucks as they pass you, or coming at you from the opposite direction if they are close enough.
The left of the two photos is the mirror bracket. The top and bottom brackets hold the mirror to the truck’s frame or door. This piece is metal, usually aluminum. Metal will get colder more quickly than the plastic housing of standard car and pickup truck mirrors.
The trucks are higher than the cars and are in the slip stream or air currents more than cars are. This means the aluminum is exposed to the cold air more than you are. When the outside air temperatures are freezing, or below, you will see a rim of ice form on the metal bracket. Wet snow and rainy conditions can cause the mirror bracket to have an ice build up of nearly half an inch.
The photo on the right in the above picture is the mirror housing. In big trucks there are electric bundles to power the mirrors to adjust. There is also a heating element in the housing to keep the mirrors dry. The electricity used to power each component does not give off heat.
Like the metal brackets the mirror housing, although plastic, is in the wind. Ice will build up on the housing. Sometimes just on the leading edge and other times the entire piece will be covered in a thick coat of ice or snow.
When you see the build up increasing as you are passed by big trucks it is time to begin thinking about getting off the road. In some cases it may already be too late.
If you have to drive in freezing conditions give the vehicle in front of you lots of room. Maybe now would be a good time to remind you of the “Three Second Rule”.
As the back end of the vehicle in front of you passes a bridge abutment, speed limit sign, or exit marker sign begin counting ….. one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand. If the hood of your vehicle reaches the bridge abutment, or speed limit sign you used as a marker, BEFORE you can count to three one thousand back off. Slow down until you safely count to three one thousand at the next marker.
You have a choice. Drive safely and arrive at your destination a little ticked at me for slowing you down. Or find yourself waiting in the median or in the trees, in a very cold vehicle, while you wait for the tow truck to get you hauled out and the ambulance to carry you to a hospital.
I can live with you being PO’d at me. I see way too many wrecks. I seriously don’t want to pass you all wadded up somewhere on the roads I travel.
Drive safely. You have a spouse or significant other waiting at home for a hug and some love to shower you with. You might also have some children that are waiting to hear your voice as you read the bed time story to them.