JIM CREES: Dangers of driving too slow

Officials: Crash risk increases at speeds below average traffic flow

I’m sure there are bunches of people who will not appreciate this column.

It has nothing to do with politics.

It has nothing to do with religion.

It has nothing to do with conservatism or liberalism.

And yet … I’ll probably step on lots of toes.

This column is about driving.

There’s a lot that has been written about dangerous driving. Texting while driving is obviously bad, and getting a lot of press.

Drinking while driving gets a ton of coverage.

Cellular phone use while behind the wheel is the stuff of much debate.

To be sure, these are all big problems. I’d like to address, however, a driving danger that gets little or no coverage or discussion whatsoever.

Too-slow driving.

Too-slow driving can be just as dangerous to a driver – and to others on the roads – as is too-fast driving.

Yep. It’s true.

Just because you’re driving slow does not mean you’re driving safe.

The other morning I drove into Big Rapids from Evart.

The road conditions were abysmal. There was blowing snow. The roads were slick and slippery.

It was still dark out. It was not a good morning.

I was driving carefully, and considerably slower than is my wont.

I’m not stupid. I’m not going to be humming along at 55 to 60 mph in this kind of weather.

I drive to conditions.

But … I was forced to come to almost a screeching stop when I suddenly hauled up behind a person driving along at 23 miles an hour.

Yep. Twenty-three miles per hour.

Look, ma’am (and it was a ‘ma’am.’ I’m not making some stereotypical statement.), you simply cannot be out on the road in those conditions and be driving THAT slowly.

You are asking for a ton of trouble.

There are bigger cars than mine, and a wide variety of commercial trucks traveling the highways and byways of Osceola and Mecosta counties that could well not be able to stop if they crested the hill and suddenly were confronted with your exhaust pipe puttering along.

It’s even worse out on some of the major roads.

I had to grind to a halt a week back while driving along U.S. 10 heading toward Reed City.

There was a convoy of cars that had been brought to a moving standstill (well less than 30 mph) by one vehicle try to make its way timidly through the blowing snow.

There is no lack of heavy truck traffic moving along that stretch of road. One of these trucks could so easily rear-end a car moving that slowly.

It’s dangerous.

Unfortunately, speeding drivers (under any conditions) are pulled over (and justifiably so) while too slow drivers are never stopped.

Look. If you are too nervous or intimidated by weather conditions to be driving, then don’t go out driving.

If the best you can do is

23 mph on a 55 mph roadway, STAY OFF THE ROADWAY. You are endangering yourself as well as other drivers.

If you absolutely must be at some appointment or meeting, there are other ways to get there – even up here in the North Country.

Call MOTA – (231)

796-4896. They’ll transport you door to door.

Call someone else going to the same meeting or appointment and carpool with them.

Ask a neighbor or friend for a lift. I’m sure they’ll be glad to help. (I have helped folks out with a ride many, many times.)

Call the COA. They are great at helping out.

But for Heaven’s sake, don’t head out for a drive across the county when you can’t handle the weather or the conditions.

According to the National Safety Council, more than 2.5 million rear-end collisions are reported every year, making them the most common type of automobile accident.

In an article on the subject, Leah Culler, an automobile insurance professional, wrote “ … a researcher named David Solomon wrote a paper on the subject of speed and crashes. He found that those drivers going the median speed of all traffic – not necessarily the speed limit – had the lowest risk of collision.

“He also found that the crash risk increases more sharply at speeds below the average traffic flow than above.”

Let me repeat, “… crash risk increases more sharply at speeds below the average traffic flow than above.”

“What that indicates is that law enforcement should pay at least as much attention to slow drivers as it does drivers going a few miles per hour over the speed limit,” noted Gary Biller, executive director of the National Motorists Association.

Driving too slow can be annoying at any time. Driving too, too slow under tough weather conditions can be very dangerous.

If you are too scared, concerned, worried, afraid, apprehensive, distressed, disturbed, fretful, frightened, ill at ease, nervous or generally uneasy about driving on area roads when it is snowy or slick outside … PLEASE DON’T.

Jim Crees is features editor for the Pioneer. Email him at jcrees@pioneergroup.com.

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Posted by Jim Crees

Jim is the editor in chief of the Pioneer, Herald Review and Lake County Star. He can be reached by phone at (231) 592-8360 or by e-mail at jcrees@pioneergroup.com.

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