The above photo was taken at 7:33 a.m. here in Missoula this morning. It's snowing, and the forecast indicates that the winter storm we are experiencing is creating severe driving conditions. Please don't take my word for it. This article on KPAX was posted 56 minutes before I took the above photo: https://www.kpax.com/news/western-montana-news/severe-driving-conditions-reported-in-western-montana
As I drove down Mullan Road this morning, I was passed, not once, but twice (about 3 to 5 minutes apart). Was I going excessively slow? No. I was about 10 to 12 MPH below the 55 MPH speed limit because the roads were snow packed and icy. Remember, 55 MPH is the speed LIMIT when roads are dry and clear. Who cares about the speed limit when the roads are covered in snow and ice? It's all about what is safe for the conditions, and some may be able to legitimately argue that driving 43 to 45 MPH could have been pushing the limits of what might be considered unsafe. It's why I wasn't going any faster than I was.
When the 2nd car passed me, they fishtailed a little bit as they went around me. They had to accelerate because there was oncoming traffic approaching. I had to move over to make room. It's moments like this that I still wish I was a police officer. I would have thoroughly enjoyed writing some citations.
Both vehicles, before they passed, were tailgating to the point where I would have been uncomfortable if it was noon on June 12th, but on December 1st, in a snowstorm, at a dark 7 a.m., really!? Tailgating is extremely dangerous and puts other drivers (the ones being tailgated) into an involuntary distracted driving situation.
Dash cams are on the Christmas Wish list because I wish I could share moments like this with you, although it wouldn't have mattered here because THERE WAS TOO MUCH SNOW, and the dash cam would have likely been covered. The same reason their license plates were covered.
It was sketchy this morning, and I said, no, I yelled (to myself) a lot of choice words about how unbelievably ridiculous and dangerous those two drivers were as they passed in such hazardous conditions. However, if things had taken a turn for the worse (pun intended), I was prepared with my absolute best defense in place.
I was wearing my seat belt!
I was paying attention! (although a bit distracted by the unsafe drivers tailgating and passing in a snowstorm)
I was driving in control!
And, naturally, I was 100% Sober (I've never drank alcohol or used drugs.)
Now, I understand that there is little chance that either of these drivers will ever read this, and if they did, they likely wouldn't care, or they would display what is called "Moral Disengagement." What does that mean? They would likely say that I was causing a road hazard by driving below the speed limit, and that is why they felt compelled to pass me in what they would consider "not that hazardous conditions." To that, I say, Well, I'm pretty sure they wouldn't have passed me if I was driving a police car this morning. And, if they wouldn't pass a police officer in that situation, why on earth would they pass anyone in that situation?
I try to not take it personally because I work hard to prevent roadway injuries and fatalities, especially my own. I've also pulled bodies out of cars and told parents that their young ones aren't coming home tonight due to a fatal car crash so it's extremely hard to not take it personally. I understand the quote below, but when something is done "to" others due to neglegence and poor decision making, I'm compelled to speak up because we all share the road together.
Suppose we, here in Montana, accomplish the "Vision Zero" goal of zero serious injuries and zero deaths on our roadways because everyone is buckled up and only driving sober. In that case, I won't be needed any longer. I really am trying to work myself out of a job.
Let's say you know one of those drivers who passed me this morning. What could be said to help them to improve their driving decisions? What would need to be said to you to help prevent this dangerous situation from occurring, if it was you who passed me?
To those who understand my frustration and have experienced other dangerous situations on our roadways, feel free to reach out to me. You are welcome to join our Drive Safe Missoula meetings. Drive Safe Missoula is the umbrella for the Missoula County DUI Task Force and the Buckle Up Montana Coalition. Drive Safe Missoula is part of the Health Promotions Team inside the Missoula City-County Health Department.
Thanks, and as always, Drive Safe Missoula.