Pet peeves of the road: winter edition

Melissa Stagnaro

Winter weather is upon us once more. There’s no use denying it. I don’t even need to see the flurries falling before my eyes, I can tell just by the change in driving behavior of the motorists around me.

I’m all for exercising caution this time of year, don’t get me wrong. Driving in the winter months can be dicey. There is the potential for all kinds of hazardous conditions. This time of year, the bogeyman’s got nothing on black ice. My favorite is that frozen slushy mess which loves to take your tires.

But there are some who take “caution” to the extreme. We’ve all been there, stuck behind someone going 15 to 20 miles below the speed limit when the roads are dry and clear. I try to temper my first response, giving them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they need new tires, I think, as I try to repress the urge to scream bloody murder. But really, it’s because the worst drivers on the road don’t change their stripes.

This morning, as I left my house in the hinterland of – as one of my fbook friends like to call it – Southwest Tyner, I wasn’t sure what the roads would be like. The rain which plagued us all day yesterday had finally stopped, and fine flakes of snow were falling. I hadn’t heard the tell-tale rattle and scrape of the plow truck. So crossing my fingers, I pulled out onto my lonely little county road, fearing the worst but hoping for the best. I was pleasantly surprised, as it turned out. And it was easy going up and down my hilly trek to Route 12. The state highway itself was completely clear.

Although not everyone got that memo, apparently.

As I learned as I headed North out of Oxford after making my usual morning stop at Blueox to get the morning papers.

At first, I thought the driver of the mid-sized sedan in front of me was preparing to make a turn. I mean, how else could you explain the fact that it was going 35 in a 55. But I was wrong, oh so wrong.

Cursing the commuting gods, I watched cars line up behind me as one passing zone after another passed us by without a clear opportunity to pull around the “grandma” in front of me. Soon, it looked like a string of fairy lights were strung out through the pre-dawn countryside. It made me want to weep, but not with Christmas joy.

Then, as our procession approached the Halfway House bridge, something truly extraordinary happened: Another car pulled out in front of our “leader.” Going even slower. Something I honestly didn’t think was even possible. Proof, I guess, that no matter how untenable a situation is, it can always get worse.

What was remarkable, though, was our lead car’s reaction to the one who cut him (I never did get a good look, so I’m arbitrarily picking a gender) off. In a split second the driver was transformed from “grandma” to “tailgater,” riding the bumper of the interloper. He stuck with it, too, even after the offender sped up to a much more respectable 50.

Even better, though, was when we crossed into the City of Norwich limits. While I obediently slowed in accordance with the posted speed limit, this guy  did no such thing. In fact, it was like he finally remembered which pedal was the accelerator. He waited until he was in the 30 mile an hour zone before finally giving it some gas. Leaving me, back in the dust, shaking my head.

I’d rather deal with winter driving conditions than bad drivers any day of the week. Because if I had to hazard a guess, I’d say there’s a strong chance the latter poses as much of a threat on the roads as the former. Not to mention the years shaved off our lives by all that aggravation.

Drive safe. (i.e. not like this guy.)

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.