I gotta get me an SUV.
While I have never given much thought to owning an SUV, there is a reason why it makes perfect sense for those folks who live in parts of the world where snow and ice in the winter is the norm, to acquire such vehicles. They are the only types of vehicle impervious to the dangers and risks that winter driving brings upon the rest of us.
At least that’s what it appeared to be true for those SUV drivers who took it upon themselves to drive at what seemed to be normal summer driving speed while on the highway in Alberta this week.
On Wednesday morning I drove from Calgary to Banff to do some work for a client. Ordinarily the distance between these two locations can be driven comfortably in an hour but this week, with some 10 days remaining before summer officially becomes fall, we experienced a winter-quality snowstorm that wreaked havoc on our cities as well as creating hazardous driving conditions on our highways.
My drive to Banff took three hours. That’s right, three hours to complete a one hour drive. There were times I found myself in a long convoy of vehicles moving at speeds no faster than 35 kph and even at those relatively slow speeds I could feel the car starting to slide from time to time.
Between leaving the city limits of Calgary and arriving in Banff, I counted approximately 25 vehicles in the ditch. This number was confirmed by folks I was meeting with as they too had counted vehicles in the ditch during their commute.
For a good portion of the drive it seemed that only one lane was in use as the left lane appeared to be a solid sheet of ice. Yet on several occasions the driver’s side mirror warned me of approaching vehicles and I watched in amazement – and frankly fear – as a vehicle went by me at what appeared to be normal summer speeds.
In each case the passing vehicle was an SUV.
At one point, some 20 minutes after one of these vehicles had sped past me, I had the opportunity to return the favor as the SUV had obviously spun out of control and was in a ditch.
No one wants to see people injured in accidents and I certainly hope that was the case with the driver and occupants of this vehicle but I would be lying if I didn’t confess to a momentary surge of satisfaction at seeing this vehicle’s in the ditch.
It was that fleeting feeling we all experience when we observe someone “getting what they deserve” and, while I’m not proud of it, I did enjoy it.
Many times over the past few years we have discussed something that I truly believe to be accurate. It is this: Everything we believe to be true is true – until, of course, it isn’t.
In counting all of those vehicles in the ditch I can only assume– with absolutely no data to support my hypothesis – that many of the drivers who ended up there– and they were not all SUVs – did so because they believed the vehicles they were driving were immune to the same hazards and road conditions that were causing all the others to drive at a very slow speed.
Perhaps part of their belief was born of their overenthusiastic faith in technology. Perhaps they believed that the combination of a four-wheel drive vehicle with an ABS braking system and whatever traction or skid control gizmo was included in the vehicle would keep them safe from harm and perhaps even allow their memories to erase from their minds the simple fact that, despite all the dazzling technology, when rubber meets ice it tends to slide.
Now if it is true that everything we believe to be true is true until it isn’t, it is probably safe to assume that many of those drivers have had a transformational experience by which their beliefs about the infallibility of an SUV no longer fit their definition of truth.
Just because we believe something to be true does not make it so.
As much as we may feel a sense of smugness in seeing those vehicles in the ditch and we can joke about people getting what they deserve, we need to remember that every year many, many people lose their lives because they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when vehicles lose traction and plow into them.
Certainly not all vehicles I observed in the ditch were SUVs and, not for a moment am I suggesting that all SUV drivers are irresponsible.
While it is true that technology has absolutely made our cars safer, all the technology in the world cannot become a substitute for that good, old-fashioned, thing we call common sense.
And the common sense lesson hopefully learned by those who spent hours in the ditch is this: When the roads are bad, slow down, you’ll get there sooner.
Till we read again.