Drive into a Ditch Day

TRAVERSE CITY — As you know, this column is all about making society a safer, saner, happier place.

Stop rolling your eyes like that. Just indulge me.

Anyway, with that noble thought in mind, I would like to propose that we add an official day to the calendar here in Michigan called “Drive into a Ditch Day.”

On this day, which would occur when the first snow falls, everyone would be encouraged under penalty of law to get halfway to where they’re going then veer suddenly (but safely!) into a roadside ditch.

Tow truck drivers will be exempt, of course, because we’ll need them to get us out of the ditches. Insurance agents, too, for obvious reasons. Oh, and collision repair guys.

But for everyone else Drive into a Ditch Day will be mandatory. It’ll be fun. We can throw tailgate parties. Bond a little.

The idea here is to concentrate the chaos caused each year by the idiots – not you, of course – who have lived in Michigan their whole lives yet somehow can’t remember how to drive in snow until, oh, at least March, thereby causing traffic snarls and hazardous driving conditions for the rest of who DO remember that – novel concept, dead ahead – ice and snow are slippery.

As things stand now, it takes three or four weeks of people driving like complete snow morons before they remember:

A) Driving an inch from someone’s back bumper (usually mine) is annoying in good weather, annoying and stupid in bad.

B) When you switch lanes at 80 mph on icy roads you shouldn’t do it like you’re playing Grand Prix on your PlayStation.

C) It hurts when you hit a tree.

D) Not everyone has a $50,000 pickup truck or SUV. Some of us drive what the rest of the world likes to call “cars,” and as such we can’t drive through slush and ice like we’re driving on a dry pavement, so, like, cut us some slack here, OK?

E) It’s not against the law to clear the snow from your windows and it actually helps you see better, so you don’t drive like a blind 90-year-old. No offense to blind 90-year-olds, by the way. I’d much rather have them out there on the roads than most people. Not that I’m annoyed or anything.

But I do want to ask a question: What the heck is wrong with you people? I mean, seriously, our first snow this year was a tenth of an inch, if that. A mere dusting.

And yet deep into the day – even after the snow had been cleared and, miracles of miracles, the road commission had remembered that salt melts ice – I sat for hours on the freeway behind accidents, incidents and cars in ditches.

I could understand this if, say, we were talking about people who had never lived here before. But most of the drivers in those accidents, were, presumably, veteran Michigan drivers, meaning they should know better.

So how come they don’t?

The unkind part of me thinks the answer to that question is: “Because most people stink at driving even under the best of circumstances, much less in winter conditions.”

The nicer part of me thinks they just need to get that first accident of the season out of their systems, hence the need for Drive into a Ditch Day.

All in favor?

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Andrew Heller, an award-winning newspaper columnist, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. Follow him at andrewheller.com and on Facebook and Twitter. Write to him via email at andrewhellercolumn@gmail.com.