Editor's note: We're counting down the most popular Latest Word posts of 2013. This one came in at No. 3. Read it as originally published.
November 21, 2013: In February, we listed the ten scariest out-of-state license plates to see in a snowstorm. But just because a car has green-and-white mountain tags doesn't mean the driver has had them for years -- and many people who've moved here and survived their first Colorado winter tend to forget the lessons that helped them avoid nasty crashes between year one and year two.
So, on the morn of the season's first notable snowfall, we offer photo-illustrated reminders to those of you starting your second Colorado winter, in the hope you don't kill the rest of us. Count them down below.
Number 10: Slow the hell down Those warnings about decreasing your speed when roadways are wet, snowpacked or icy shouldn't be dismissed as the suggestions of finger-wagging octogenarians who have seemingly forgotten what the gas pedal does. There's this little thing called physics that tells us that the faster you go, the farther you're apt to slide if you hit a slick spot. Really. We're not making this up. Number 9: Speaking of physics, SUVs aren't immune to it Rides like Escalades can roll over a lot of things, but not the laws of science. In fact, if you start to slide in a giant sports-utility vehicle, the extra size and weight are apt to get you in trouble faster than if you were piloting a Mini Cooper. And that's not to mention the issues some SUVs have with rolling over and/or flipping. While you may feel badass zooming by everyone on a snowy day, they'll get the last laugh if you're on your top a minute or two later. Continue to keep counting down the top ten things non-Colorado natives forget at the start of their second winter here. Number 8: Slamming on your brakes can be totally pointless Trying to mash your brake pedal through the floorboards only works if you're Fred Flintstone, especially on snowy pavement where you've got no traction. If you've got anti-lock brakes, steady pressure's the ticket. If you have standard brakes, pump them. And do it gently rather than pretending your crushing a zombie's skull on The Walking Dead, or you'll be the walker -- because your car will be too crinkled up to drive. Number 7: Black ice is actually a thing So you look at the roads ahead and don't see any snow on them even though there's been precipitation recently and it's freezing outside. Time to peel out? Wrong. There's a damn good chance the surface is covered with a thin sheet of ice capable of turning your car into the equivalent of a hockey puck. And it's no fun when you put that particular biscuit in the basket. Continue to keep counting down the top ten things non-Colorado natives forget at the start of their second winter here. Number 6: Signs like this one aren't there for no reason It's not a myth: Bridges and overpasses are frequently icier than the roadway on either side of them. For that reason, executing a lane change or traffic maneuver on a bridge that might work fine on the rest of the interstate could end with you getting a face-full of air bag. Number 5: Get low When it's snowing like crazy and your visibility is for shit, you're going to be tempted to switch on your brights -- and after you do, you'll be blinded by the light reflecting off the snow and bouncing right back at you. Use the low beams, and feel free to leave them on until you get to your destination -- which you'll have a lot better chance of reaching if your eyes are actually working. Continue to keep counting down the top ten things non-Colorado natives forget at the start of their second winter here. Number 4: Sudden turns can turn into sudden wipe-outs In best case scenarios, you actually know where you're going -- meaning you know when you need to turn and can start doing it early, rather than at the last minute. So when the weather's dicey, round your friggin' corners -- unless you'd rather smack into them. Number 3: Steer into a skid* Steering into a skid sounds simple, right? Yet every winter, those of us accustomed to driving in these conditions usually see at least one or two people who do the opposite and go into a spin capable of scoring a ten in an Olympic figure-skating competition -- and a zero when it comes to driving.
*After our original list was published, we were contacted by a professional instructor for MasterDrive. In his opinion, here's a better way to put this piece of advice: "Look where you want to go and steer in that direction."
Continue to keep counting down the top ten things non-Colorado natives forget at the start of their second winter here. Number 1: Be patient When the road conditions are lousy, it's going to take you longer to get where you want to go. So deal with it. Leave earlier. Or don't and be cool about getting there a few minutes after you'd planned. A snowstorm's a great excuse for showing up late, and Coloradans are generally very understanding when it happens. You'll realize that after you've been here for a few more years.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
More from our Lists & Weirdness archive circa February: "Photos: Top ten scariest out-of-state license plates to see in a snowstorm."
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