Beware of drivers on thin ice

Published 10:13 am Tuesday, January 18, 2011

It has become a joke around the newsroom about my inability to be fazed by Shelby County’s so-called extreme weather — including the recent “ice storm.” You see, I was raised in Oklahoma, where the weather changes faster than the wind blows. A week in January can include a balmy 60 degrees on a Monday and full-on blizzard conditions come Wednesday.

I have survived many Oklahoma winters where freezing rain snapped power lines and fat snow flakes soared almost horizontally on a 70-mile-per-hour wind. Ice became common enough that we learned how to drive on it, digging our cars out of a new frozen shell every morning.

So when I heard Shelby County was expecting a winter storm so large it would shut down roads and highways, I expected the worst.

Much to my dismay, my home in Hoover received only a dusting of snow and minimal ice.

However, when I ventured out of my home and onto the roadways I discovered the reason behind the panic. No, it wasn’t the black ice I encountered, but the many drivers I saw slamming on their brakes on ice-covered bridges, tailgating the cars in front of them and accelerating up to red stoplights. I quickly realized that these hazards were far more dangerous than the ice.

To put it bluntly, many Alabama drivers don’t know how to drive in winter weather conditions. It’s okay; it’s not your fault. Why would you need to, when it’s not a regular occurrence?

My point is, if you don’t know how to drive on ice, please don’t. It goes back to a fact I remember learning in driver’s education when I was 15 — the most frequent cause of car accidents is human error. That’s right, the most frequent cause of car accidents — even in the winter, even when there’s ice — is human error.

Personally, I hope we’ve seen all the winter weather conditions we’ll get this year. If Shelby County receives any more snow or ice in the coming months, I’ll heed my own advice: stay inside and out of your way.

Katie Hurst is the Lifestyles Editor of the Shelby County Reporter. She can be reached at 669-3131 ext. 19 or by e-mail at