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Top 5 driving hazards

Airports | Amtrak | Buses | Capital Weather Gang | D.C. snow emergency | Plowing plans | Rails | Snow removal | Live traffic

I just got back from taking the GridSpouse to Dulles airport via neighborhood streets, the Capital Beltway in Maryland and Route 267. If you're driving on local streets or highways in the D.C. area Monday, these are the main hazards.

1) Lanes disappear. Highway driving can be quite exciting, and not in a good way. You may be driving along just fine at 55 mph when the car in the right lane swerves in front of you. That driver's lane just disappeared into a snow bank. That can happen on the left side of the highway as well. Some merge lanes also are buried in snow.

2) Lane conditions deteriorate. Even the middle lanes are problematic. Quite suddenly, drivers encounter patches of solidified slush. Some swerve. Some skid. Some slow rapidly. These conditions prevail on the Beltway in both Maryland and Virginia. Crews are out working on them. But that's also adding to the traffic delays.

3) Piled snow limits visibility. This is true at intersections and on ramps. You remember these from December. The crews had no place else to put the snow, so it's piled high at points where you need to look left or right to see oncoming traffic. Be patient and cautious.

4) Road crud gets on windshields. My smartest move was getting the windshield wiper fluid reservoirs filled before driving in this. To the airport and back, the wipers and fluid squirters were in almost constant use. Even where there is no snow on the highway, the moisture kicked up by tires and glinting off the sunshine limits visibility.

5) Pedestrians are in the roads. In many areas, the sidewalks are completely blocked with snow. People are walking not only on neighborhood streets but also on main roads, such as Colesville Road at the Beltway in Silver Spring. Cars are coming by them at 50 mph, spotting the pedestrians only at the last moment.

By Robert Thomson  |  February 8, 2010; 11:47 AM ET
Categories:  Advisories , Driving , Weather  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, snowstorm, tips for travelers  
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If you're kicking up slush higher than your car, you're driving too fast... and it's not too much fun when the sludge hits the pedestrians in the face.

Posted by: member8 | February 8, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

You forgot to mention the idiot drivers who clean all of the snow off of their cars except for the roof. If you come up to one in front of you, back way off. Sooner or later the snow (and ice) is going to slide off. That could be very dangerous to someone following too closely.

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | February 8, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

BTW - Glad you and CWG are cross linked.

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | February 8, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Something else I noted yesterday:

Because there is so much snow, the sewers are often blocked. That means melting snow has nowhere to go and you get a huge puddle in the road. You should be leaving extra following room anyway in case you have trouble stopping or you skid, but you also need to leave room to allow people to swerve when needed to avoid obstacles of the sort Dr. G raises in point #1 as well as of the sort I mention. There was an enormous puddle in the left lane of outbound I-395 at the Boundary Channel Drive interchange yesterday, as well as another big one at the bottom of the hill between Seminary and Landmark Mall.

Posted by: 1995hoo | February 8, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the tips! I'm headed out to Dulles this evening.

Posted by: eabgarnet | February 8, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

I was driving behind a pick-up truck on Richmond Highway when it drove past several pedestrians in the center aisle of the road (the only place they could walk) at full speed--completely covering them in icy slush with an air temperature of 26 degrees.

The truck weighs thousands of pounds and is made of metal, the pedestrians are breakable and hundreds of pounds. Please slow down!

Posted by: notindc1 | February 8, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

If folks hear that the District's huge meter enforcement team will be let loose on home dwellers who haven't shoveled their sidewalk .. you'll see the City as never before. Start cranking out the tickets.

Posted by: tslats | February 8, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Note to homeownwers/businesses- PLEASE shovel the sidewalk in front of where you live or work. Why is this such a foreign concept around here? Pedestrians have no choice but to walk in the street, and this is getting downright dangerous even on a day when traffic is light. I really worry about pedestrian accidents over the next few days.

Posted by: lb79 | February 8, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

I don't believe that drivers see pedestrians "only at the last moment." They see them and don't give a damn. They intend to get home in time to watch their all costs.

Posted by: oxhead1 | February 8, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Today I ended up walking in the street, not because my neighbors didn't clear their sidewalks, but the curbs were completely blocked. What good are clear sidewalks if the curbs are buried under 3 feet of snow?

Posted by: Elkay1 | February 8, 2010 8:08 PM | Report abuse

2) Lane conditions deteriorate. Even the middle lanes are problematic. Quite suddenly, drivers encounter patches of solidified slush. Some swerve. Some skid. Some slow rapidly.


A: You should be traveling slow enough it isnt suddenly
B: Swerving is stupid and dangerous. You should ahve your liscense taken from you.
C. Suddenly braking on frozen snow?
See above

Posted by: kreator6996 | February 8, 2010 9:44 PM | Report abuse

kreator, now write that in english...

Posted by: dcdoug | February 8, 2010 10:06 PM | Report abuse

Agreed. I normally don't mind driving in snow, but this storm has made me all too aware of potential driving disasters.

If you have any tips to avoid these hazards, or generally driving in the snow, please include them, thanks Dr. Gridlock!

Posted by: bettinaray | February 8, 2010 10:20 PM | Report abuse

Biggest hazard... aggressively driving snowplow drivers

Posted by: reston75 | February 9, 2010 3:45 AM | Report abuse

The number one driving hazard just may be the Mayor, who brazenly declared this weekend that the city would be open for business on Monday. Seriously? It is Tuesday, more than 60 hours after the snow ended, and Massachusetts Avenue is a huge, dangerous and utterly unplowed mess, Western Avenue is unplowed as is L Street, 19th Street, 21st Street and most of downtown. With the Metro barely functioning, how does he figure?

Posted by: lisa29 | February 9, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse

One more hazard not mentioned yet - morons with 4WD vehicles, driving as if it's a dry sunny day. Just because YOU have traction, doesn't mean the guy you just cut off (the one who was driving at a speed appropriate for the conditions) can remain in control while trying to avoid you. Yeah, I'm talkin' to you, and you know who you are. It's great that you have 4WD (I do on all my vehicles), but you should be driving as if you are in a RWD vehicle. Shame on you.

Posted by: archtop | February 9, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

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