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With all the snow we’ve had around here – 6 feet high and still counting in some places – there are small indications that most of us are slowly learning how to deal effectively with winter this time around.
Take parking bans, for example. The first parking ban in Portland this season managed to scoop up more than 200 illegally parked cars on Portland streets. There would have been more but the city’s Public Works Department ran out of places to put any more cars. Portland’s second parking ban only netted about 60 cars. Better late than never, but people did learn that you shouldn’t leave your car on a Portland street if there is a parking ban in effect.
And, as winter wears on most Mainers are getting better at driving during hazardous storms. For example, for the most part, SUV and four-wheel-drive truck owners have been keeping their speed below 80 when driving on sheer ice, and that has helped keep accidents down.
So, now that we seem to have gotten the hang of winter driving, it’s a good time to review the rules for summer driving. After all, summer will be here in five or six months. In case you’re counting that’s only 150-180 days.
Summer drivers must be prepared for fog – fog often thick enough to hang shingles on. Those who know more about it than I do will tell you that fog can be thought of as a cloud at ground level. To most of us it’s just a pain at any level. They say fog forms when the temperature drops to the dew point and invisible water vapor in the air condenses to form suspended water droplets. All of that weatherman mumbo jumbo is nice to know, but it won’t help you see any better.
Like snow, fog can reduce visibility to 0 or less, creating tricky driving conditions requiring drivers to have more than a teaspoon full of brain matter to get where they’re going safely. If you can't postpone your trip until the fog lifts -- usually by late morning or the afternoon -- follow these tips:
• Drive with lights on low beam and, no matter what time of day, don’t even think of Jim Beam. Your high beams will only be reflected off the fog and actually impair visibility even more. Jim Beam will be no help at all in fog.
• Reduce your speed to below 85 despite everyone else on the turnpike and watch your speedometer. Fog creates a visual illusion of slow motion when you may actually be speeding. Going 45 on the turnpike as other vehicles fly by at double that speed may create the visual illusion that you’re standing still.
• Listen for traffic you cannot see. To hear better, turn up your earpiece a tad and open your window a little.
• Use the right edge of the road or painted road markings as a guide. If there is no painted stripe to guide you, too bad. You’ll probably go careening off the road at the first sharp curve, so be prepared.
• Do not stop on the turnpike, freeway or heavily traveled road unless you’re itching to have your car make smart contact with others. If your car stalls or becomes disabled, turn your vehicle's lights off and take your foot off of the brake pedal. People tend to follow taillights when driving in fog and your red lights will make a perfect beacon. Move away from your vehicle to avoid injury, preferably to a well-appointed motel with indoor pool, hot tub, sauna and Jim Beam-stocked mini-bar.
Observe these simple tips and you might survive this summer’s tourist season.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is
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