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For Older Drivers, Giving Up License And Independence Can Be Tough

I was driving behind an SUV when a large ice sheet slid off its roof and headed toward my car.

In a reflex reaction, I jerked the wheel to the right to avoid the ice. Because of the high speed at which I was driving, my car spun toward the side wall and into the path of oncoming traffic.

Dr. Gridlock can be reached at (703) 279-3200 or by e-mail at drgridlock@washpost.com.

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By some miraculous and divine act of mercy, I managed to turn my car around and begin driving again without having crashed into anything.

A part of me is disappointed by my own action, or reaction, of cutting the wheel too sharply to the right and creating a dangerous situation for other drivers. But then again, if I hadn't moved and had instead been hit by the sheet of ice, the result could have been devastating. I'm very lucky. I have come away from this potentially disastrous event spared, humbled and, hopefully, a bit wiser.

However, I can't help but also feel angry about the irresponsibility of drivers who, either out of laziness or sheer lack of understanding, put innocent lives in jeopardy by simply failing to clear the ice off their vehicles.

Beth Ritter

Rockville

I'm glad you made it through a perilous situation. Yes, we all should clear snow and ice off our vehicles before setting out. And motorists who find surprises in their way -- be it ice chunks or animals -- might be better off staying in their lane than jerking suddenly into an adjoining lane without knowing if that can be done safely. Sometimes, the result of the latter -- a metal-on-metal accident -- may be more profound than metal on ice or metal on animal.

Something to think about. Thanks for writing.

Maneuvering in Snow

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I'd be interested to know why one should not drive in a lower gear on ice and snow, especially from a stopped position. Around here I see drivers gunning their engines instead of easing out of a stop in low.

Also, I was taught that downshifting is preferable to braking if you plan ahead a bit, which is the key to driving in snow.

George Vary

Bethesda

Here is what my traffic safety guru, Norman E. Grimm Jr. of the AAA, advises:

• It's a good idea to start from a stop in a lower gear, accelerating gradually until picking up traction.


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