While northbound on the US 95 headed home from Hayden, the weather got the best of a poor little black sedan headed south. I was driving a reasonable following distance behind another 3/4 ton hauling an rv. I saw the black sedan hit the black ice at 65mph and cross into oncoming traffic.
The driver of the 3/4 ton ahead of me managed to pull onto the shoulder so instead of getting hit head on he got hit on the tail end of the rv instead. I managed to pull over to the shoulder into a snow bank and escape getting hit head on myself (barely).
I watched the black sedan pass me, still swerving, and go into the ditch on the side of the road about a 1/4 mile down. Several vehicles pulled over to check on them. I pulled over and called 911 immediately. The dispatcher asked me to check on the driver of the truck pulling the rv so I pulled in behind him and found that the elderly man and his wife were okay. I waited by the side of the road, safely pulled onto the shoulder, for emergency services to show up.
After they showed up I finally noticed the damage to the Dodge Earth Sodomizer. The snow bank had caved in the lower portion of the rear passenger side door.
Compared to the damage that could have happened if I'd let the car hit me head on (which would have happened if I hadn't pulled myself onto the shoulder) I think I got off easy.
Certainly our insurance agent (and neighbor) is much happier with that outcome.
The rv in front of me was trashed (it actually got pulled partially into the ditch and into the reflective markers), the truck pulling it lost one of his equalizer bars, and our truck's door got dinged, but nobody was hurt or killed. We got off easy.
Several things I learned from this experience:
- 99% of drivers in North Idaho are responsible winter drivers. It's that 1% that's the issue.
- Thank God Chris taught me how to drive on the ice early on in the season. Because I'd internalized "smooth and deliberate" I was able to avoid an accident without losing traction myself.
- Since it was snowing and I was pretty sure there was ice on the road (it was 21 degrees out) I kept the truck in 4 wheel drive lock. If I hadn't already been in 4 wheel drive my emergency evasion would not have turned out as well.
- Since I've been dressing for the weather and not for the heated truck I was VERY comfortable standing on the side of the road for an hour in 4 inches of snow. Shearling boots, wool socks, good jeans, and a coat rated to 20 degrees are all good things.
- Good batteries (in this case 2 of them) make it so you don't worry about how long your emergency flashers will be on.
- A GPS, even on a familiar route, will enable you to tell dispatch EXACTLY which two rural roads you happen to be between.
- Emergency blankets and supplies kept in a truck enabled me to offer the elderly woman a warm blanket while she was waiting. If I wasn't dressed as well as I had been I would have been in need of a blanket too.
- A personal relationship with our insurance agent and his phone number in our cell phones enabled Chris to call him after he got off the phone with me and meant he was at our house shortly after I got home to get the info and get the process started and off my mind.
- Bonner County Sheriff's Office and Fire Department are some of the nicest guys on the planet.