Traffic crawls on I-94 in Chesterfield Twp. on Wednesday morning. (Todd McInturf / The Detroit News)
OK, it shouldn’t be necessary to say this, but the Michigan State Police as well as the Michigan Department of Transportation urge motorists to slow down and drive at speeds appropriate to road and weather conditions this winter.
We’re setting records for snowfall this winter (January was the snowiest on record since 1880) but that doesn’t seem to make much difference to certain drivers.
We’ve all seen them out there zipping along in the worst weather like they have some sort of special dispensation when it comes to snow and ice.
I hate to profile but, when I’m on the freeway at 5:45 a.m,. it always seems to be the same two types of vehicles: pickup trucks and people with 4-wheel-drive SUVs.
While the rest of us are driving at speeds appropriate for the conditions, they roar by in the fast lane (which in bad weather I call the “dumb asphalt” lane) at 60-plus mph.
According to the MSP, troopers responded to more than 5,200 traffic crashes last month, nearly 1,100 more than in January 2013.
“Driving too fast for conditions is theNo. 1 cause of traffic crashes during inclement weather,” MSP Director Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue said.
“Drivers should slow down and pay attention to the condition of the road. Don’t get frustrated with the weather. Plan ahead and give yourself extra time to arrive at your destination. “
MDOT Director Kirk T.Steudle offers these driving tips:
■ Keep distractions to a minimum so drivers can pay attention to changing road surface and weather conditions.
■ Wear seat belts.
■ Leave extra room for snowplows and salt trucks.
■ Do not use cruise control when roads are snow covered or icy.
■ Never try to pass a moving snowplow on the right. Motorists trying this could end up in a snow cloud on the right/shoulder of the road and won’t see the massive plow blade, which could cause a serious crash.
The MSP operates a Winter Travel Advisory website with state highway and freeway road conditions at www.michigan.gov/roadconditions. Condition reports also are available at the MSP Winter Travel Advisory Hotline at (800) 381-8477.
Up-to-date road closings, traffic incidents, traffic speeds and traffic camera views can be found on MDOT’s Mi Drive website: www.michigan.gov/drive (from your computer, mobile device or smartphone).
The public can sign up for traffic alerts and road closing notices from MDOT at www.michigan.gov/mdot. Just click on the red envelope icon on the menu to the left of the page. Safe-driving tips, winter level of service maps for state routes, videos and charts are posted on the Roads and Travel section of the site as well.
P.S.: In last week’s “do you remember” column I dredged up auto-related memories about equipment, services and options that largely haven’t been offered in decades. For example: free air at gas stations, air vents on front seat windows, ding-ding bells at service stations, radios with reverb boxes and gas attendants who routinely cleaned your windshield and checked your oil and tire pressure while pumping your gas.
Among the items I mentioned not seeing any more were “suicide knobs,” which led to many readers contacting me to ask what in the world is a “suicide knob?”
OK, basically a suicide knob (also called a neck knob, granny knob and steering wheel spinner) is a round knob that attaches to the steering wheel. The knob swivels and is intended to make steering with one hand easier.
When I was a kid the knobs were very popular with James Dean wannabes who decorated their steering wheels with knobs that came in dozens of designs, including chrome, 8 Ball, billiard balls, skulls, golf balls or car emblems.