As I drove to Kalamazoo today on I-94, I passed the burned-out area where the 133-vehicle-pileup occurred on January 9, 2015 during white-out snow conditions. The chain-reaction crash caused a semi-truck loaded with fireworks to explode. As a result, the highway was closed in both directions for 43 hours, 22 persons were injured, and one person died.
Seeing the site of this catastrophe caused me to think: “What do experts recommend when drivers encounter white-out driving conditions?”
A compilation of expert sources revealed the following advice for driving in white-out conditions:
- Slow down without hard braking. Keep your hands in the 9 and 3 positions on the steering wheel and make only smooth steering corrections (avoid jerking the wheel);
- Turn on your low beam headlights and fog lights (don’t use high beams that reflect off snow particles making it harder to see);
- Avoid passing or changing lanes (be patient);
- Dramatically increase your following distances;
- Try to get off the roadway when visibility is near zero but do not stop in the roadway or you may be the first link in a multi-vehicle pileup. Try to get to a parking lot or even the ditch is safer than stopping on the roadway (do not get out of your car until emergency vehicles arrive or visibility drastically improves).
- When vehicles are spinning-out or crashing around you LOOK toward where you want to go, towards your escape route, not at the crashing vehicles around you. You are most likely to steer toward what you are directly looking at;
- Be aware that in white-out conditions it is common for drivers to subconsciously increase their speed because their brains lose the usual visual references for speed such as passing guard rails, trees, and poles on the sides of the roadway.