I’m alive, never fear

I had a harrowing morning. I got up at 5 to make the long drive to the airport, only to discover that last night, after several days of rain, it had frozen. And snowed. Uh-oh, you say…at least in my usual caution I had given myself 5 hours to make a 3 hour drive, so I figured I’d have no problem.

It wasn’t bad; little traffic, the roads were icy, but I was taking my time and coping like a real Minnesotan. Then, as I was leaving lovely Glenwood, I saw a truck stopped to make a left turn way ahead — like 4 or 5 blocks ahead. So I touched the brakes to slow down a little more. So I tried to slow down a little more. So I tried very hard to slow down some more. Why isn’t this car slowing down at all? I still had plenty of room, so I started easing over to the right to miss the truck on the shoulder. I tried to ease over. Why isn’t the car turning? I was pumping the brakes and trying to shift over just a little bit, right up until the moment I crunched into the right rear corner of the truck.

I’d managed to slow it down enough that the truck was hardly damaged — a shattered tail light, and some dinged up body work. Unfortunately, my car smacked right into the wedge of the back corner directly at my left front wheel, and then slide forward to take out the driver’s side door. The wheels looked rather pigeon-toed afterwards, and I got a broken glass shower.

You will be pleased to know that I did not pray at any moment, but kept busy trying to get the vehicle under control. I did have plenty of time to curse at length and polysyllabically, saying cruel and hurtful things about the car’s ancestry and the sexual and excretory habits of Minnesota weather systems.

I have bounced back! My wife made an emergency run from work to pick me up and deliver me at the airport (I owe her big time now). I’m now waiting to catch a slightly later flight than I had planned, but I’ll still make it to Michigan in time for my talk tonight. Have no fear, I will also look composed and fabulous when I make my entrance.


  1. Janine, Insulting Sinner says

    So, was the big sky daddy punishing you or saving you?

    Glad that you are apparently alright.

  2. Michelle says

    Great to know you’re OK. We were worried for a moment.

    I blame Greg Laden’s artist interpretation.

  3. says

    Told of the incident, Gingi Edmonds said, “I don’t want to say that God is punishing Myers for dissing Him and His preachers, but God is punishing Myers for dissing Him and His preachers.”

    Normal people, by contrast, are just glad to hear you’re OK.

  4. says

    It must be cracker gawd’s way of making sure PZ gets a newer, safer, more reliable car while at the same time, stimulating the local economy.

  5. Qwerty says

    Perhaps all the creobots were using their voodoo Volvos to put a curse on your late winter driving. Ahhh, their prayers didn’t work!

  6. says

    Ice on the roads suck… it’s a good thing you were taking it slow this morning! Every car accident I’ve ever been involved in has either involved deer or ice… thankfully, the ice ones were all in a driveway of some sort, so were accidents going really slowly. It’s an odd sensation to slowly drift down the driveway toward a giant icy snowbank and have nothing you can do to prevent the impact… it must be even worse when it is a truck and not a snowbank you are drifting toward.

  7. Richard Harris says

    Obviously, PZ, Yahweh was protecting you. Or maybe he had it in for you, to cause the accident in the first place, & this was a warning that you must head, or he’ll really smite you next time. You’re free to interpret this any way you like – well, you would be if you believed in that crap.

    I’m glad that you haven’t suffered any injuries.

  8. says

    Good to have you back in the game, you had us worried for a moment or ten.

    Now do you think that Jebus caused the crash, or that he saved you…bu**er was bound to be involved one way or the other.

  9. itwasntme says

    Yow! Glad you’re OK. Now comes the worst part – dealing with insurance companies.

  10. Rhysz says

    Glad to know everything is fine PZ. But, heed this lesson and never anger the invisible skyvoyeur anymore. And if you thought xians we’re bad wait for the afterbirth of secular law, the true scum of the erath, insurance representatives……


  11. Josh says

    …and the sexual and excretory habits of Minnesota weather systems.

    +10 for that statement.

    The accident must have sucked. Glad you’re not hurt.

  12. Steve_C says

    That must be the worst feeling in the world, knowing despite everything you’re doing to avoid the accident, it’s still going to happen.

    Glad no one was hurt. Good luck in Michigan!

  13. Max Fagin says

    ” I was pumping the brakes and trying to shift over just a little bit”

    There are two mistakes there. I worked as a “traffic cone jokey” for a driving school over the summer, and you should NOT to pump the brakes when you are in a skid. Instead, you should “threshold break” i.e. hold the brakes just UNDER the pressure required to skid.

    You should also never try to turn AND brake on an icy road. Pick one or the other, or your car will pick neither.

  14. God says


  15. Rhysz says

    Glad to know everything is fine PZ. But, heed this lesson and never anger the invisible skyvoyeur anymore. And if you thought xians we’re bad wait for the afterbirth of secular law, the true scum of the erath, insurance representatives……


  16. Don says

    It’s a good thing you had that St Christopher medalion dangling right next to the lucky rabbit’s foot.

  17. Aelfric says

    Very glad to hear you’re alright! I had a similar sort of slow motion accident many years ago, though I ended up fairly badly injured (though it could have been far, far worse). It ended up being a final confirmation of my atheism, as I didn’t pray, didn’t think about god, rather, I did a very calm calculus of the situation (I was going about 50 and a head-on collision was imminent), and I thought to myself, calmly and rationally, “well, guess I’m dead now. That was a good life!” When I came to, badly injured, my first thought was “*8?#$! I’m alive. This won’t be pleasant.” Good luck dealing with insurance and whatnot, and look at the bright side: your day is statistically almost certain to get better from here!

  18. says

    Brings back fond memories of northwestern Minnesota–or not. I made it into the ditch of couple of times, no crunched metal, but I sure do understand how the latter happens.

    Good thing it’s a bit of mechanical mess, with the biological system left nearly unscathed.

    Just waiting for some religious cretin to gloat. Simon, Facilis?

    Glen D

  19. SiMPel MYnd says

    It’s actually a good thing that your car was totaled. It obviously had been possessed by a demon. And there’s no way any of the Xtians would have helped you with the exorcism. You should contact the local church to have them pray over it, though, just in case… You don’t want to have it pull a “Christine” on you, reassemble itself, and kill unsuspecting teenagers.

    Glad to hear you’re well…

  20. AnthonyK says

    I was praying for you PZ. I prayed to God that you would be spared so you could continue to coordinate the effort to remove him from all our lives.
    Who says religion is useless?

  21. Louis says

    Glad to hear you are ok PZ.

    Safe journey…well….safer than the first segment anyway.


  22. says

    Yeah, love that feeling. That whole–m’kay… thing’s still sliding–let’s do this… and this… and this… and this… hmmm… still not liking this… oh, hey, I’ve also got this… nope… aaaand oh look, we’re outta room, well, isn’t it great that time slows down in moments like these thanks to that whole adrenaline thing and you have time to wonder whether you left the oven on, admire the scenery, do a nice estimate of the odds as to whether this will go past damage to epidermal layers and how deeply if so and unpleasant it will be for each possibility? Hmmm… pretty colour on that truck’s bumper, tho’ I woulda gone with a more blue tone, I think… Uh huh, shattered glass, grinding metal, huh? Hell of a sound, but neat seein it in slow-mo and all… And fucking great, what’s this gonna do to my premiums, again? Lovely.

    Seriously, it’s good to hear you’re okay.

  23. IceFarmer says

    PZ, you need to go buy yourself (and your wife) a Subaru then throw some Nokian tires on it. No winter driving potty mouth problems for you every again.

  24. says

    As one of the few Pharyngulites to have made The Pilgramage, I have to say that Glenwood is a pretty-looking town (OK, it’s at least one of the less boring spots along that stretch of road). Of course, that was in early September, in warm weather.

    Glad to hear you’re OK, PZ! Too bad about the squidmobile….

  25. Blondin says

    Glad to hear you’re okay, PZ.

    Do you suppose your car will end up in foreign or domestic car heaven?

  26. Nerd of Redhead, OM says

    Good to hear you are OK. I’ve been in a similar situation with ice, where nothing responds except your wits. The police who responded didn’t give out any tickets since he almost ended up on tush when he stepped out of his car.

    We plan on toasting the Trophy Wife tonight with MAJeff.

  27. Carlie says

    Have no fear, I will also look composed and fabulous when I make my entrance.

    Hopefully not sparkly. Be sure to check the beard carefully for glass bits! And we’re all very glad there was no physical harm done.

  28. Rudy says

    >It’s a good thing you had that St Christopher medalion dangling >right next to the lucky rabbit’s foot.

    They say it works even if you don’t believe in it.

    Glad you’re OK, PZ.

  29. AnthonyK says

    We also have the most pleasing thought that given an opportunity…death declined.
    We could so easily all be in tears now.
    Fuck you religion!

  30. Guy Incognito says

    Given that every thread touching on PZ Myers’ pending visit to Michigan seems to include a reference to his supposed blood-feud with Ed Brayton, I’m surprised he hasn’t been accused of faking an accident just to get out of his interview.

  31. Endor says

    Glad to hear you’re ok, PZ!

    I live in just outside Buffalo, NY. Can empathize. If the South were a little less Jesusland I would move somewhere warm and snowless.

  32. says

    This is no doubt the FSM’s way of punishing you for the blasphemy of not installing a pirate ship anchor in your car, which you could have used to avoid catastrophe. :P

  33. says

    Why is everyone focused on Myers? God was clearly punishing the truck driver, Myers was merely the instrument.

    Take that nameless truck driving guy! That shattered tail light’ll teach you to … not …. keep on doing whatever it is that Skyguy disapproves of! Yeah!

    I mean it’ll teach you to stop doing it.


  34. God Retardent says

    PZ come clean!!! The truck you hit was carrying a load of sacred Jesus Crackers to the local Catholic Churches.
    Just a coincidence,I think not.

  35. Cliff Hendroval says

    Glad to hear you’re OK, Doc.

    And AJ Milne, you got the time-slowing-down thing just right. I’m always amazed how much goes through my mind in something-bad-is-happening situations that only last two or three seconds.

  36. says

    Given that every thread touching on PZ Myers’ pending visit to Michigan seems to include a reference to his supposed blood-feud with Ed Brayton,

    I just noticed that of the top five most active scienceblog posts are three, by or about PZ, one by Ed Brayton, titled, “I Get Email” and one by Orac, titled “I get comments, too”

  37. Strangebrew says

    Methinks quite a few fundamentalist ding bats…might be cursing their god…expect e-mail…about how you defied their lord in their hour of need causing them to lose their faith….heh! heh! heh!…glad ya live another day…and a fair few after that come to to think of it…!

  38. franz dibbler says

    It would have been amusing if there was a jesus fish on the back of truck. Thank FSM you are safe.

  39. Julie Stahlhut says

    Ugh. Skidding accidents really, really suck. Glad you’re okay, PZ.

    A few years back, our 16-year-old Mazda 626 LX gave up its life to protect my husband from injury in a similar accident on a rain-slicked road. We salute the ultimate selfless sacrifice made by your car.

  40. Sarah says

    Wow, I’m glad that you’re okay.

    You know, if we lost you in an accident, there’d be plenty of pious people who’d gleefully claim it was the wrath of god. I personally hope you live to be 100! ;)

  41. George says

    Thank God you are ok!

    oops, I mean you are a wise man to drive carefully to avoid a more tragic outcome because clearly god was f^&%$#ing with your brakes and steering.

    No wait that’s no good either, uhmmmm

    Whew, take care; your caution seems to have paid off.


  42. Inky says

    Hahaha, you’re such a funny raconteur!

    Really glad that you lived to tell the tale.

  43. Silver Owl says

    Glad you’re ok. Sorry about the car. Welcome to Michigan and leave that crappy weather in Minnesota.


  44. Dahan says

    Well, if you’re lying and you did make a little prayer, I hope it was to the nice people who designed your car so you would have a chance to survive such a crash.

    Praise to you designers!

    BTW, glad you’re safe. :)

  45. Miguel says

    Congratulations on a well-conducted experiment! It’s obvious you were attempting to verify the non-existence of god. Because, clearly, if god existed, he would have taken this opportunity to smite your blaspheming, heathen arse. But he didn’t. So, from this result, we can infer that either he doesn’t exist, or he’s totally cool with the whole “militant atheist” thing. Either way, WATB xians can STFU. I expect a complete write up of this experiment to appear in Nature, or some such.

    Seriously, glad you’re okay :)

  46. Tulse says

    Praise Darwin you’re OK! I hope you offered up appropriate thanks to St. Dawkins for your deliverance.

    All kidding aside, it’s great to hear that things turned out as well as they did.

  47. Greg Peterson says

    In situations like that (all Minnesotans have them sooner or later), instead of praying I threaten Baby Jesus with egregious statutory consequence if anything bad should happen. I find it works exactly as often as prayer does.

    Praise, threats, entreaties. It doesn’t matter to that god. Almost like he’s not listening at all.

    What a dick.

  48. Pancho NotVilla says

    I’m glad you made it through this unscathed, PZ. May you live a much longer and very happy life.

    Brief reminder to all my dear fellow Pharyngulites: wear your seatbelts, always. Air bags won’t do much for you if you’re not properly belted up (down?).

    Also, ABS is great for most low traction situations, but not for ice, especially when combined with EBS. The best strategy on an ice skid (or in PZ’s case, ice squid?) is to use a feather touch on the controls and to use them one at a time. Max Fagin @ 17 has this just right.

  49. says

    Glad you’re Ok, PZ.

    I was thinking of you today in Bio 112 lab. We got to dissect a squid (who had donated her body to science).

    It was really cool, but I was mostly just thinking about how glad I would be to be able to read Pharyngula tomorrow morning.

  50. me2 says

    I think it was Kwok. He arranged for his fabulously infamous truck driver, who went to a very famous kindergarten (which shall remain nameless) with him, to wait for you on the road. That will teach you for banning him from the blog, naughty PZ!

    Glad to hear you’re ok PZ ;-D

  51. Betz says

    The “flashbulb memory” effect is neat. 20 years later I can still see glass bits flying slo-mo through the air after a cretin T-boned my car. But as mutable as memory is, I can’t be sure that I’m not just remembering the remembering of it!

  52. Lana says

    Aren’t wives wonderful? And husbands. Call me sappy but that’s one of the many things I love about being married. We’re partners in life and can always rely on each other in a tough situation. Of course, you can have this deal without being married but this is what I’ve got and I’m grateful.

  53. Daniel says

    Just so you know, if you had prayed you still would have hit the truck but it would have been filled with BEER! Ice cold beer would be raining from heaven as the driver, Bill Gates, came up to you. He would already have his cheque-book out and explain that he didn’t have insurance but would pay anything to keep this story out of the press.

    Oh and Natalie Portman would be there too somehow.

  54. mothra says

    Glad to hear you were not injured! We all knew religion is all ‘smote & Myers.’

  55. Owlmirror says

    Clearly, you must get the trophy wife a trophy.

    (Thinking about that old PBS show on car safety features)

    I’m glad that the car was intelligently designed to absorb shocks rather than transmitting them on to the passenger, and that the glass was intelligently designed to fragment into particles rather than shards. Remember, you may owe your life (or lack of injuries) to a crash test dummy (testing program). And to your seat-belt!

    Buckle up, everyone!

    I would say to knock ’em dead in Michigan, but that would probably be gauche.

  56. Epinephrine says

    Ugh, icy roads are a pain. Good to hear that you kept calm and didn’t have a Pascal’s Wager moment (though you could have spent the whole slide trying to figure out which wager to accept).

  57. Free Lunch says

    Let me join the chorus in saying that I’m glad you are alive and well. Sorry about your car.

  58. Stu says

    Whew! Glad to hear you’re ok.

    Again: we now have proof positive that God hates cars.

  59. JBlilie says

    So much for omnipotent! He missed you even in that simple “fish the the barrel” situation. Jebus is slipping up!

    ;^) Glad to hear your only damage was little glass nicks! (You were going to replace that car with a Mini anyway, right?)

  60. MikeM says

    I’m looking forward to your entry asking us for opinions on cars, sorta like your posts about what laptop to buy.

    I’m going to go ahead and recommend something other than a Subaru. Small sample space, I know, but a friend of mine refers to his Subaru as the worst automotive decision he’s ever made. This was after several head gaskets and heads.

    I gather you drive a Volvo. I’m not thrilled with them, either.

    I’d recommend a front-wheel drive Honda, and an excellent set of snow tires for all four wheels. Just bite the bullet and get a set of steel wheels and snow tires that you leave on for a few months.

    Glad to hear you’re okay.

    If you’re driving the car I think you’re driving, that was ABS at work. If you have a switch to deactivate your ABS, use is. No ABS in snow; you want the wheels to lock in snow, and your ABS was keeping that from happening.

  61. Jeff says

    PZ, I’m glad you’re ok, and that nobody was injured. Selfishly, I’m relieved you can still make the lecture tonight. I’ll see you there!

  62. Guy Incognito says

    @83: Of course, given PZ’s stellar relationship with God, it would probably be filled with Michelob and driven by Bill Donahue.

  63. Rowan says

    In pondering the situation, was Satan the invisible hand that snatched PZ from the fate put into motion by Dog so he may continue to point out the absurdity of blind religious faith?

    Having twice experienced similar accidents I strongly recommend taking max dosages of ibuprofen now in order to begin to combat the body ache you will surely be feeling tonight and for the next few days.

    I am very, very glad you are alright, PZ.

  64. Hay-Zeus says

    Praise Jeeeeez-us, PZ was in a car accident. For all of you that follow the Good Shepherd, please see this act of vengeance as the truth of our Lord and Savior Jeee-zus Christ, that He is among us even when we are down, that he lurks even on icy cold Minnesota days. That he CAN, as Falwell et al have proclaimed, CAN ACTUALLY manipulate the weather, time, space, and most likely reality in order to put the heathen at an inconvenience (since, you know, he didn’t really get hurt or anything). Ask not what you can do for YOUR LORD, but what YOUR LORD can do for you!

  65. KittysBitch says

    Otto #20
    No good.
    I’ve got “anti-lock” brakes.
    The first thing I was told was that they don’t work on icey or wet roads.
    Not sure what the point is really.

    Let’s see……4…5..6..7.. and 8. Yeah PZ, all tentacles accounted for.
    Your smiting has been delayed once more.

  66. Bunk says

    That sucks! No wait, it’s a miracle! No wait, it’s a warning! By letting you survive such a harrowing accident, God is telling Christians that they’re wrong and need to repent from their pious Republican ways. No wait, I think it’s just that ice is slickery.

  67. Cary says

    PZ! Glad to hear you are alright.


    You should get a set. All-seasons just don’t cut it in MN. You’ll be amazed at how well your car will respond on snow or ice with a set. They have saved my ass a number of times.

    They’re not expensive either. Just get a second set of cheapy wheels.

  68. rrt says

    Speaking from racing experience, there’s nothing quite like the realization that you’re entirely at the mercy of the laws of physics…and get to watch them in action.

    PZ, you realize we MUST have a “new car” thread. Not so much as to help you choose as to channel the inevitable torrent of advice. Obviously ABS is a must (no more brake pumping, though I see some suggestions the ABS “stomp” is not ideal for ice…?) and I can’t recommend enough two sets of wheels with good sets of summer performance and winter tires. Ach, see? Advice already.

  69. rufus says

    Thank G….just kidding!

    But I’m happy you’re fine!
    Perhaps you somehow pissed off the FSM?


  70. Professor Peewee says

    ABS does work, if you have traction…

    I second the snow tires (make sure you get good ones, don’t be cheap here)…although you may find yourself being the one who gets hit from behind when you stop and the guy behind you can’t…

  71. says

    The abs stomp is OK for ice if you are driving a subaru, with its balanced load. I have a hard time getting myself to do it just the same.

  72. Flori-DUH Rob says

    For the non- NASCAR fans here (my guess is the majority), before each and every race, they have a local pastor, priest, minister, whatever… ‘bless’ the drivers, the fans, the sponsors, and pray for everybody’s safety in Jesus’ name, Amen. Blah, blah blah.

    The uselessness manifested itself (somehow unnoticed by the legions of fans) when the sport lost Dale in a seemingly benign crash in the last turn at Daytona a number of years ago, naturally after the pre-race religious crap. Of course the tradition has not changed… same shit each week.

    I find the irony meter scaling off the charts with this evil, godless, cracker poking, amateur driver walking away virtually scratch-free from an accident.

    Glad you are AOK PZ.

  73. ThirtyFiveUp says

    Long distance hugs for you and the Trophy Wife.

    None for the car and the weather.

    Greg Laden’s photo does not identify the ?six? casualties. Would two of them be Barb and Simon?

  74. Carl Troein says

    I was going to ask why you don’t use studded tires like people in other countries where roads are likely to be icy, but according to this page they’re illegal in Minnesota (as they are in Germany and other countries where there’s little snow/ice and people prefer drive fast and die young). But yeah, as Cary says you definitely should have a proper set of winter tires (tested and approved M+S ones) if you’re going to drive when it’s anywhere near freezing. Not that they’ll help you much on wet ice or in deep slush, but they’re a good deal better than rock-hard summer tires. Leave it to the xians et al. to substitute prayer for preparation.

  75. Grendels Dad says

    PZ, your description of the accident reminds me of a discussion of the finer points of skiing on the ice covered slopes of the east coast mountains I grew up with.

    You can wear a calm, confident expression while holding the perfect form, or you can stand sideways flailing your arms while emitting a high pitched scream that only the very young, or dogs, can hear. But either way, gravity and terrain have a lot more to do with where you end up.

    Anyway, add my relief at the lack of injury, and my condolences on any bureaucratic nightmares from the insurance company.

  76. RamblinDude says

    Been there. Years ago, I was Interstate 80 east of Des Moines (sunny day, medium speed), and at one stretch there were an unusual number of vehicles in the ditch. “What the…” I think to myself. “Can’t these people drive?” Just to be cautious, though, I decided to slow down even more, and the act of taking my foot off the pedal almost sent me into a tail-spin!

    Living at the time in the North, it was, of course, not the only out-or-control skid I was involved in, but fortunately I managed to avoid collision vectors.

  77. charley says

    Without friction to steer or decelerate your car, use conservation of momentum. Grab whatever/whoever’s is within reach, and throw it/them as forcefully as possible in a direction normal to the direction of travel (out your window). Your car will then slide to the right as desired.

  78. Free Lunch says

    For serious driving safety in winter, _studded_ snow tires were all the rage for a while around the Upper Midwest until a number of states, including Minnesota outlawed them. I don’t know if there have been any advances since as reasonable substitutes, but snow tires are certainly better than all-weathers.

  79. Big Baby Jeebus says

    But Charley, friction is the devil’s work. That’s what makes orgasms possible.

  80. says

    At first I was like “sheesh, not some lame car-denting story”, but that 4th paragraph totally made the post worthwhile ;) Hooray for swear words.

  81. foxfire says

    PZ, glad to hear you are OK! I know the feeling of uncontrollable car-on-ice, where time seems to stop.

    May the rest of your day (and evening) make up for the nastiness of your morning.

  82. Lee Picton says

    So glad to hear you are OK. I know the feeling of the skid that goes on forever (2 seconds). The husbeast and I lived in Buffalo for many years, and as an avocational race car driver, he taught me (this was before ABS) how to regain traction on ice. Sounds counterintuitive, but hitting the accelerator AND the brakes at the same time DOES work, as I found out the necessary way. I only had to use the technique once, but that once prevented a crash. Now you need to start a thread where we all get to give you advice on what new car to buy. Fun!

  83. SVN says

    I did the same thing too on the highway here in OKC. Except the semi in front of me was a gas tanker. Fortunately, I hit the side of the railings on the highway and I also did not pray ;)

    You should apologize to your car for mocking its ancestry.

  84. davery says

    As I said over on Greg Laden’s blog, serves you right for being a dirty liberal atheist. You have been smoten by god. Or at least your car has. His aim must have been off.

    Glad your all right, sorry about your car

  85. Marty says

    Does God exist or not? You say he does not yet you are angry for all he has or has not done. You do protest an awful lot.

  86. Dawn says

    Glad you are OK, PZ, even if the car isn’t. Icy roads…I don’t miss the MI ones, the ones in NJ are just as bad, because they don’t know how to salt/sand worth a darn.

  87. 'Tis Himself says


    See, all you sciency geeks who dis us humanities nerds, obergeek PZ knows some big words, like marmalade and tricycle.

  88. says

    Repeat of my earlier Tweet:

    1,000,000 points if you send your insurance paperwork in with the words “Act of [insert deity here]”

    1,000,001 points if they actually pay out.

  89. Quidam says

    Jeez. All this nonsense about ABS and how to handle ice. Yes MikeM, it was ice, not snow. First, I expect PZ knows as much about driving on snow and ice as anyone else. Secondly ABS is more effective than non-ABS in all circumstances other than deep snow. Braking in deep snow however isn’t a big deal and ABS is only marginally worse than without. There is a continual screed on the Internet about how ABS is ineffective on slippery roads and it just doesn’t match with the evidence. I think that some people are convinced a computer can never do their job better than them.

    Most importantly ABS allows the driver to maintain control of the vehicle.

    In a Swedish test of 66 ordinary drivers, without ABS (Strandberg, Lennart (1995): Automobile Brakeability on Ice and Snow with Ordinary Drivers Experiments with 9 different tyre types and disconnectable antilock (ABS) brakes) In 706 test runs the drivers went off the road 96 times. With ABS ONE did.

    The average deceleration was greater with ABS than without for all 24 combinations of tyres and road surfaces. However, many individual tests on the A-track resulted in greater deceleration when wheels were locked-up digging themselves down in the loose snow to a level with greater adhesion.
    A short braking distance is not always favourable, though, when the car has left its lane.

    In an SAE test

    Directional control was often lost during test with the anti- lock brake system inactive. Control was never lost during tests with the anti-lock brake system active. Under most circumstances the anti-lock brake system offered a slight advantage providing greater deceleration than was recorded in tests with the anti- lock system inactive. With fresh snow on pavement and a temperature just below freezing, somewhat better traction was obtained with the anti-lock brake system inactive.

    This idea that you should turn off ABS is simply false and dangerous.

    I live in the Rocky Mountains west of Calgary. I have three Subarus (all with ABS). The first has 295,000 Km, the second 248,000 and the third I’ve only had 3 months and has 11,450. Other than maintenance I have had to replace a set of plug leads and a water pump seal. All are still in daily use and in good condition.

    I would recommend a Subaru to anybody who lives in a snow zone and puts on a lot of miles. And I would never recommend ever turning off ABS even if the car lets you.

    Traction control is another matter :)

  90. Bone Oboe says

    Count me among those glad to hear that You’re well, PZ.

    Janine, Insulting Sinner beat me to the Tom Waits.
    Should have checked Pharygula, then had a bowl of the Cap’n Crunch. Alas, no Crunch Berries.

    Perhaps if Jebus had built PZ’s Hotrod this wouldn’t have happened.
    Janine’s Butthole Surfers post the other day caused me a total Gibby/Ministry recall.

  91. Longstreet63 says

    See, now, if you were a believer, God would have been your copilot.

    Of course, he probably would have distracted you with screaming, threatening and generally being no help whatsoever.

    But on the bright side, since there’s no way Mr. Perfect would wear a seatbelt, He’d have gone through the windshield, and we’d be rid of him at last.

    Better luck next time.

    (Cthulu is my copilot. He’s going to kill me first.)

  92. says

    My question is, how much effort will it take to replace all those legendary bumper stickers, and will the Trophy Wife allow them to adorn a new(er) vehicle?

    Glad to know you’re okay, PZ.

  93. Roger Scott says

    Wow! Glad that you are OK, PZ.
    The ice gods sorely trouble us sometimes. As an Australian, I’m not supposed to know about these things. But the family spent two weeks driving around Tasmania in winter (great deal too cheap to resist). We discovered there are two kinds of ice on roads, white and black. You can see the white ice from a distance and it allows tyres to grip. So it was not a problem. You cannot see the black ice and it is slippery as can be. We went for an involuntary slide on a steepish hill outside Queenstown. Fortunately we were doing about 5 kph at the time, but gravity took over and there was nothing we could do until we were out of it. Prayer also didn’t come to mind. Just uh oh.

  94. NVattorney says

    I hate to sound like an attorney, but I am. You probably shouldn’t broadcast this until any potential claims are settled.

  95. SASnSA says

    I’ve had one of those “oh shit!” moments when I was up at Grand Forks. Driving down the highway; two lanes each way. Just recently plowed, but still quite slick none the less. I was in the left lane passing another car at about 45 mph, when I see off in the distance a packed snow bank, left by the plow, covering the lane I was currently using. Well, I hadn’t gotten past the car, decided NOT to try and speed up and change lanes (with all the dangers that plan offered), and started to slow down to hopefully change lanes after the other car passed me. Come on! pass me already! Nope, the other car was slowing down too. Maybe he was trying to be helpful, but what he was doing was just boxing me in. Luckily I was able to slow down to a stop just a moment after the front left corner of my bumper touched the snow bank, and the other car finally sped off. I lucked out though, as the only damage sustained was a slight dent in the bumper where there was no metal behind the bumper to support it. It’s amazing what adrenaline will do to your sense of time though.

    Glad you came out of your accident safely.

  96. says

    I’m glad you’re OK, PZ.

    Banned Troll sighting:

    K**k is all god-botting over the incident at Laden’s blog (which shows up on Facebook.) He doesn’t seem to realize that Greg’s blog is also a part of scienceblogs.

    “Wonder if this is the Almighty’s means of punishing him for his ridiculous, rather juvenile, conduct against me both here and over at Science Blogs. Or rather, more likely, because he is a religious bigot. I’m not superstitious, so would rather conclude that it is a mere coincidence.”

    Proof that there is no God. Who needs a mental hamster for an advocate?

  97. Raynfala says

    Here it is: surveillance footage from the road that PZ was driving down.

    I’m a-kiddin’, of course. Glad to hear to survived, sir!

    –Raynfala (fellow Minnesotan)

  98. mephyt says

    You know PZ, most people are nearly killing themselves trying to LEAVE Michigan… Glad to see that you managed to make your way though!

  99. Sili says

    This is Cthulhu’s punishment for your posting all that disgusting snailpr0n!


    Glad to hear you’re OK. And that Mary wasn’t so worried as to not let you leave.

    I hope your insurance is up to date.

  100. Rynaldo says

    NVattorney wrote:
    “I hate to sound like an attorney, but I am. You probably shouldn’t broadcast this until any potential claims are settled.”

    Do they have no-fault insurance in Professor Myers’ neck of the woods? Perhaps skidding on an icy road is considered an act of God and we can send him the bill. I’m glad to hear that no one was hurt – winter driving can be a challenge. I’ve been doing it for years and I still have a few close calls every winter. Sincere devotions haven’t helped (if you want to call ohshitohshitohshit a sacrament)but anti-lock brakes certainly have.

  101. Bride of Shrek OM says

    Good grief, I get up (5.30 am here) get a cup of coffee and sit down to enjoy a little Pharyngulitude prior to the brats awaking and what do I see..the first post headline giving my the cold chill up the spine.

    Glad to hear you’re ok PZ but just a message to all you people living in the temperate zones….If the Good Cthulhu had wanted you to live in ice he would have given you skates for feet.

  102. Bob H says

    Hey PZ,

    Just another blog reader here – I’m just an old guy with a couple of sharp, heathen kids and a lot of respect for what you’re doing out there. Glad to hear you’re ok.


  103. SteveM says

    I’ve got “anti-lock” brakes.
    The first thing I was told was that they don’t work on icey or wet roads.

    You were lied to. read Quidam @138. Wet and icy roads is what they were designed for, to help you maintain control that would normally be lost almost instantly under those conditions. Slam on nonABS brakes on wet or icy and you’ll probably end up in a spin, do the same with ABS and you will stay straight and stop.

  104. ZK says

    Glad you’re not hurt PZ, and not a sky-fairy in sight.

    (Unfortunately the same isn’t true of one of my work mates who is currently in a hospital bed after coming off his pushbike. Volvos are clearly a safer personal transport choice).

  105. Boko999 says

    Your front wheels are supposed to be a little pigeon-toed. They’ll check anyway.
    Glad no one was hurt, sorry for your FU’ed day and all the trouble.

  106. Bunk says

    I agree with the comments about antilock brakes by Quidam @ 138. ABS will salvage whatever traction is available to help you stop, but they will not create more traction than is available. Pumping an ABS is like poking holes in a condom. Expecting an ABS to make a normal stop in wet or icy conditions is like wearing a condom on your finger. Pumping your brakes in slippery conditions is a good strategy if you don’t have ABS. If you do, just push the brakes as hard as you can and enjoy the sweet little vibrations.

  107. karen says

    Glad you’re OK, PZ!

    Forget the snow tires. Move to eastern NC instead. We have tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods, but ice…not so much. We do have all four seasons–sometimes all in the span of one week! But there is definitely too much woo, and we need more people like you to counteract it.

  108. speedwell says

    PZ, you might be embarrassed to ask the blog readers for assistance. But we know you’ve got reduced income for the year and it’s not going to be easy. We can all afford ten or twenty dollars much more easily than you can afford ten thousand minus whatever your insurance dribbles out. Let us know how to help. If nothing else, your blog is worth it.

  109. Jadehawk says

    glad to see you’re ok! and yes, i insist on a “new car” thread, as well. which I’ll then attempt to derail by suggesting PZ buy a Nano :-p

  110. says

    @120 for the win!

    PZ, I’m mighty glad to hear you’re OK. Your story reminded me of the sad end of my 1972 Chevy Chevelle, in Houston in the summer of 1980… though in that case it was a frog-stranglin’ downpour, rather than ice, that exorcised the demon friction.

  111. Felix says

    Sometimes it’s a good idea to actually hit the gas and increase speed slightly when in danger of skidding out of control. At least it’s better than hammering the brakes and trying to steer while doing it.
    Winter tires are actually mandatory in Germany. You get fined if they stop you without.
    Oh, and get a BMW ;)

  112. ctenotrish says

    Whew! Very glad that you are okay. I grew up in the south, but live in South Dakota now . . . and it did not take me long at all to learn that I’d rather deal with a foot of snow than a fraction of an inch of ice when it comes to roads, driveways, parking lots, and/or sidewalks. Ice is for cocktails, and I’ll be hoisting one in your honor tonight! Cheers, Ctenotrish.

  113. ZK says

    Felix @162
    Winter tires are actually mandatory in Germany

    I discovered similar laws whilst living in Norway, and TFFT! The winter-snowbound states of the US would do well to take a leaf from the same book.

  114. Dianne says

    Being of a somewhat paranoid mind, I have to ask if this is an expected consequence of Minnesota weather or did someone mess with your car? You have annoyed a fair number of people with shaky grips on reality and a tendency to believe in a baby killing god.

  115. says

    I discovered similar laws whilst living in Norway, and TFFT! The winter-snowbound states of the US would do well to take a leaf from the same book.

    Quebec just passed a law of this nature at the beginning of this season. I appreciate it*, as someone who drives there lots–but who technically lives just across the border, in Ontario. And I think Ontario should seriously consider doing the same. Summer tires and all seasons around here are almost completely pointless, some days. Buying good ones is an annoying expense (the best ones, being soft, generally get two seasons, maybe three if you’re lucky), but very, very much worth it.

    *I’m not subject to it, since I don’t live there–but I have good snow tires anyway–and I figure the law means I’m that much less likely to get plowed into by someone else when things get slippery.

  116. Nerd of Redhead, OM says

    I have to ask if this is an expected consequence of Minnesota weather

    You must not live in the snowbelt. Icy roads are easy to come by. A little rain at say 34 °F, and then the sun goes down and the temperature drops to 20 °F overnight. The the sun comes up and starts to melt the ice, giving is a slight layer of water. Whee…

  117. JackC says

    Quidam@138 – I gotta say, I was one of those nay-sayers for ABS – until I found I was about to face-plant the back of some clueless idiot on the Thruway doing about 15 to my 65 – at about 200′ or less. I tell you, I was totally committed to planting on him, but scrunched the brakes hard anyway and evaded.

    Darn if my lovely Prius, with all the traction and stability control and ABS I could manage to get – which was all of it – didn’t do EXACTLY what my autonomic system wanted (I was personally just “along for the ride”) and – with only a teensie bobble on the breakdown lane, the next thing I knew, he was in my rear-view.

    I am a “better than average” (certified, I have been trained) driver, but I knew for a FACT that I could NOT have gotten out of that without my ABS and the other goodies. I am now a “believer” – in Traction Control.

    So happy as well as all the others (well, most of them anyway) that you are in good shape, PZ. Hope the return trip is boring to the point of … well …. boredom. :-)


  118. Aquaria says

    Whew! So glad you’re OK, PZ. I stand with the others who want you to know not to be shy about asking for help with the new car. I don’t envy you the insurance thing, though.

    Ugh. I hate them. Fear-mongering parasites.

  119. Lord Zero says

    Sigh, im so glad you didnt receive any injuries.
    If people drove with precaution, knowing how
    easy is to die on a crash, things would be
    totally different.

    PZ, you behave like a scientist even on the road.
    Isnt wonderful ?

  120. Dianne says

    You must not live in the snowbelt.

    I live in NYC which could arguably be called the snowbelt (yeah, yeah, I know: Minnesotans aren’t impressed, but I’m from Dallas originally). However, I don’t drive. Subways run quite nicely during the snow. I’m not sure what happens to the stuff that falls on the sidewalk, but it disappears…presumably someone gets paid to shovel it.

  121. Morsky says

    Naught much to add, except the fact that I’m extremely, extremely glad to hear you are okay, Dr. Myers. This blog has brought me immense enjoyment in the past few years, and the very thought that we were almost robbed of it by lousy snowy weather, of all things, is chilling.

  122. Chas says

    This exact same thing happened to me over the winter here in Oklahoma! I was going over a hill and started to brake for a stop light, and noticed I was doing nothing to stop the car. Then, as I nearly had the thing stopped before the intersection, I drifted another 2 or 3 feet and wacked the back end of a semi’s trailer. Semi drove off, I waited for a ride.

  123. Tom says

    But I dont understand – if no God then how do we define a good outcome as your escape and a bad outcome as your death or injury. I suppose we could define it by a poll but then it was a poll that elected Dubya! If on a fundamental level, good or bad is globally undefined then the rational conclusion may be that the incident is hardly even worth reporting! Heidegger had this problem when he tried this approach in the 1930’s…

  124. MikeM says

    Quidam, what kind of Subaru do you own? It’s the 2.5l that’s been weighed down with this problem.


    This is exactly the problem my friend had twice, but as I said, that’s kind of a limited sample.

    And I know the road was icy, but if there’s any loose material at all on the road, locking up the wheels enables a “wedge” of sorts to build up. That’s the theory anyway.

    Regardless, we should all be saying “Happy Monkey!” because our sensei is still with us.

    On snow tires… I put snow tires on the front only of a Jetta GLI. When I had my spinout, the front wheels stayed put nicely. How I missed the guardrail is anybody’s guess.

    PZ, you need to learn ice-racing techniques. Don’t know what the traffic was like where you were, but the idea is to turn the car around (so your driving backward) and use the throttle to pull yourself the other way. Check out some of the videos on youtube.

    Or, just move to NorCal. It’s 70 here today.

  125. CosmicTeapot says

    So fecking what, it’s all the fault of you scientists anyway.

    This would not have happened if we had flying cars that you scientists promised us 50 fecking years ago!!!!!

    Sorry for doing a Walton and typing this when I’m drunk, but where’s my fecking flying car!!!!

    Oh, and glad you’re OK.

    Of course, you would be even better if you had a flying car. Know what I mean!!!!

  126. says

    The Cosmic Teapot has a point. If we weren’t so busy dicking around with cancer maybe we’d have nice, safe flying cars by now. We’re easily 9 years behind schedule according to this crude drawing I made as a child.

  127. Utakata says

    This happened to me once…while riding my bicycle. Luckily I whiped before I hit anything (but the road, of coarse). Though my legs got wrapped up in the gears. But here endeth my lesson…do not cycle when it is freezing rain out (or any weaher that suddenly turns liquids to ice). I assume it should applied to drivers as well. Either way, a great lesson on classical physics about moving across frictionless surfaces.

  128. astrounit says


    Man, PZ, I know it all too well.

    This one episode about 15 years ago had my adrenalin going:

    There I was, traveling pleasantly along one afternoon at the 65 mph limit on a newly-paved and wonderfully smooth section of a 4-lane highway in sunny and dry and cold (but thawing) Spring conditions. Maybe 40F degrees. No traffic at all. The way is straight or very nearly so for miles and miles. Every mile or two the highway crossed over one of the rural roads common in the area. I encountered dozens of these overpass bridges whose surfaces have a different pavement: some kind of corregated structure composed of a metal substrate. Signs before each overpass warn motorists to beware of the overpasses potential for being “slippery when wet”. But it wasn’t anywhere near wet. It was dry as a bone…

    I was still over a quarter mile from the next overpass when I noticed a car sitting precariously on the steep embankment that slopes from the off ramp to the highway overpass. Hmmm…that’s peculiar, I thought. I took my foot off the gas and coasted – not because I was aware of any hazard, but just to slow enough to get a little extra time to see what the car was doing there, facing me but tilted at that crazy 45-degree slope of the grassy embankment. I was down to around 55 by the time I reached the edge of the overpass pavement…

    As soon as I crossed over onto that overpass surface my car began a very sudden yaw to the left and I suddenly found myself going BACKWARD. In little more than a second.

    At 55.

    On a 20+foot high overpass.

    It happened so fast there was no time to respond by steering – even if I had any steering. Fortunately my momentum in the direction I had been moving held steady and the momentum of the spin held too. I careened over that overpass twirling around a full 360 degrees. There wasn’t time for any control input even if it was available. All I had time for was to keep my hands on the wheel and brace myself.

    Just as I crossed over onto the dry pavement of the highway again the car had reasonably lined up again in the direction I was moving. My front tires caught their purchase with a minor squealing complaint (it sounded just like an aircraft touchdown) the car wiggled around quite a bit and I kept going…at about 45…

    The last 5 or 6 overpasses I encountered in my trip I treated with EXCEPTIONAL RESPECT: I slowed to 35 and made sure I was straddling the middle. I utterly hogged the two lanes available. (This was only possible because there was almost no traffic – very few cars).

    The instant rush of adrenalin of this episode was by far the most sharp and intense in my experience. That juice can really get you going. I can easily see how it can kill people who have health issues. I think my adrenal glands must have disgorged ALL of their supply in that 3 or 4 seconds. My heart was still racing 10 hours later and I could not sleep at all that night…

    I couldn’t stop the experience from replaying over and over in my head. (And not all of the outcomes were as pleasant as the reality). Those overpasses have that corregated metal (presumably steel) substrate that remains much colder than the ambient air temp and that one sucker had a variable layer of ice on it.

    PZ, you travel an awful lot. Please take good care you are paying attention to the matter at hand, if you have any controil over your situation. Okay?

    We should all be alert “NOW” people when we embark on trips, whether to an airport to catch a plane to some far-flung destination, or to the corner market to buy some Rolaids.

  129. astrounit says

    Denis Loubet #162 says, “Once you’re in a skid, Mr. Physics is no longer your friend.”

    Nope. You’re wrong. Mr. Physics isn’t ever our friend. Mr. Physics is indifferent. Mr. Physics however is ALWAYS controlling things.

    What’s no longer your friend is Mr. Hubris. He is deceitful. He can build up your self-confidence and the conceit that you are in full control of your situation. Then he can turn on you in a second and stab you in the back.

    Some friend. I’ll take indifferent Mr. Physics ANY time. (See my account #184).

  130. Bryn says

    Crap! Don’t do stuff like that! Glad to hear you’re okay and I second the suggestion above: anti-lock brakes. Get them. Sane people are in short supply, so, please, keep yourself safe.

  131. Knockgoats says

    But I dont understand – if no God then how do we define a good outcome as your escape and a bad outcome as your death or injury. – Tom

    If you’re serious, you’re an idiot. Whether there is a god or not, we each of us has to decide what we consider good or bad; but because we are social creatures, and for the most part fairly similar, we tend to agree with each other. In this case: suffering and premature death – bad; escape from them – good. The Christian God, however, according to the Bible, is a pathologically jealous, sadistic, genocidal megalomaniac – and so, by the standards of most people here, extremely evil.

  132. WRMartin says

    Glad to hear you’re OK.
    Check those pockets and carefully brush out the bits o’ glass – nothing quite like still getting minor but bleeding scratches on your hands several hours later after you think you’re done with it all.
    And you’ll probably appreciate a few naproxen/Alleve or Tylenol for the sore muscles and such when you settle down and really start to feel the after-effects of the impact.
    I’ll sacrifice a chicken later to re-pay the gods for your safety. Or is there a god of frozen over roads we should curse at?

  133. Aquaria says

    But I dont understand – if no God Santa Claus then how do we define a good outcome as your escape and a bad outcome as your death or injury.

    There. Fixed it for you, deluded fuckwit at #176.

  134. Bill Dauphin says

    MikeM (@185):

    Moller is a snake-oil salesman. But here is the Teapot’s feckin’ flying car for real!

  135. Quidam says

    MikeM: I have a 2000 2.5 Legacy (295,000 km) a 2004 Forester 2.5 (248,000km) and an 2009 Legacy 2.5i (11,450)

    The 2000 got the coolant additive, but none have shown any of those symptoms. I realize that one man’s experience is a poor statistical sample, but I had far more problems with a Horrible Honda with only 189,000 km and the Mazda MPV blew a head gasket at 310,000. My lovely 84 Toyota Tercel 4wd Wagon went to 365,000km and went out wrestling a moose to the ground on an icy road. It was a draw – neither survived.

    I know about the ‘wedge’ thing. If the wheels can dig in you can stop in a shorter distance – BUT a) those are not low traction conditions, and b) maintaining control is at least as important – if one wheel digs in and the other doesn’t, then hopefully the ditch is full of soft snow.

    In deep wet snow I turn the traction control off as the car can get bogged down too easily, but stopping isn’t the problem in those conditions.

  136. Janine, Insulting Sinner says

    Posted by: Jadehawk | March 25, 2009 4:31 PM

    glad to see you’re ok! and yes, i insist on a “new car” thread, as well. which I’ll then attempt to derail by suggesting PZ buy a Nano :-p

    Clear proof that Jadehawk is made of the purest evil.

  137. Nerd of Redhead, OM says

    Clear proof that Jadehawk is made of the purest evil.

    Evil is nice, if it is used for good.

  138. Bishop says

    Proof that any time wasted in prayer, was time that could be spent in an attempt to resolve… glad you are okay!!!!

  139. Otto says

    KittysBitch #102
    *No good.
    *I’ve got “anti-lock” brakes.
    *The first thing I was told was that they don’t work on
    *icey or wet roads.
    *Not sure what the point is really.

    The point is that whoever told you that is an ignorant fool.
    ABS saved my ass on the way to the 2000 new years party:
    We had icy roads, some kids shot out of a side street right
    in front of me.
    I stepped on the brakes, the car steered behind the kids
    into the side street, then back out avoiding the parked
    It was like magic, no sliding, squealing, banging.
    The car moved like on rails.
    I know here in Minnesota lots of drivers sneer at ABS.
    They are in my opinion dangerous fools.

  140. Tom says

    No. 189: So when Hitler and a large number of followers decided good was the purity of the Aryan race, how similar would you say you were to him?

    And if no global definition of good or bad, then why worry about whether religion is good or bad?

    Or is that irrational?

    No. 192: I detect a hint of irrationality!

  141. AnthonyK says

    Somehow, I don’t think Patient Snarky Watcher is going to be here for very long….

  142. El Guerrero del Interfaz says

    Glad you’re all right.

    And, now that you need a new car, just one word: ABS. Especially where you live. I live in southern Spain and will never buy a bike without ABS, now that I’ve had one. TCS would be good too (not manly enough for bikes unfortunately). In case I’m too technical, I mean anti-blocking system for brakes and anti-slip for traction.

    I’m not the first to mention it but I repeat it because it’s really important. Do it. Or, if you’re as Saint Thomas as me, try it for yourself. “Mano de santo” as we say down here ;-). Technology is your friend :-)

  143. KittysBitch says

    Sadly, it was the salesman that told me that.
    I’ve only ever been forced to test them on dry ground. If they work 1/10 as well on ice as they did for me on dry ground, I’m sold. They didn’t save my life, but they certainly saved my front end.

  144. PoxyHowzes says

    Oh did, PZ, God have your back?
    And pluck you (slightly scathed),
    From awful ruin, fearsome wrack,
    PZ, to make you Saved?

    Or did a vengeful God, the whack…
    Er nearly do you in,
    All mad at His corporeal crack…
    Er, punctured in the bin?

    God’s devotees, they have the knack,
    PZ, for sure to know,
    If God doth save or doth attack —
    The Bible tells them so!

    And so, PZ, your icy track
    Tests Christianist belief—
    ‘Saved!’ says that clique; ‘Damned!’ shouts this claque.

    You’re safe! That’s my relief.

  145. Aquaria says

    No. 192: I detect a hint of irrationality!

    You detected incorrectly, dipshit. I presented an argument precisely as valid as yours. Your premise is fucked up; ergo the rest is as much full of shit as you are.

  146. allkom says

    Been there, seen that. Just like you, didn’t have a bumper sticker reading “driven by me, guided by god”.
    Somehow I don’t think it would have improved mine (our your’s) odds at the time. Nevertheless, glad to know all ended fine.

  147. clinteas says

    Glad you’re ok,PZ !

    You should talk to greg about his artistic interpretation of the accident tho,that had me really worried for a moment !

    And someone give that confused dimwit @ 176,201 his meds.

  148. Longtime Lurker says

    Glad to hear you’re okay, ditto on the ABS comments (no pumping!), next car should be stick-shift (greascar if feasible).

  149. Lilith says

    Glad you are okay, PZ.

    This got me thinking about what I do in emergencies, prayer-wise, and I made an interesting discovery about myself.

    I realised that when I have control of the situation (I’m driving the vehicle that is crashing, I’m caught in a rip and drowning, etc), I never pray. I’m too damn busy trying to save myself and do all the correct things to make it out in one piece.

    The only time I pray in an emergency is when I’m having to rely on someone else’s abilities to save me (e.g. when I’m a passenger in a car, plane, etc) and I have no control.

  150. bobxxxx says

    Maybe it would have helped to shift into low gear to let the engine slow down the car. An even better idea is stay in bed all day when the roads are covered with ice under snow.

    I hope you get the standing ovation you deserve in Michigan tonight.

  151. Otto says

    never trust a salesman!
    Anyway, you will have a longer stopping distance
    on snow or ice. And it is still a good idea to
    use snow tires or at least all season tires.

    I am using all season tires for the first time
    this winter. My impression is that they are pretty good
    but that snow tires are still better on packed snow
    and ice.

    That is a fairly subjective opinion, not the result
    of careful tests.

  152. tom.shanks@durham.ac.uk says

    Aww – am giving up! I was expecting rational argument on this website but have been called fuckwit, twit, dipshit, full of shit. So much for rationality!

    Good night from the land of Richard Dawkins!

  153. Felix says

    Hmmm, why didn’T PZ use his copter from his private roof helipad? What’s our worldwide conspiracy good for if he didn’t even get that built on time? Someone screwed up in the meadia figure privileges department.

  154. FPS says

    Its a good thing PZ is ok.
    I was just thinking. What if we resurrected Stephen J. Gould and Carl Sagan and got Richard Dawkins and PZ to debate Casey Luskin ,Guillermo Gonzalez ,Bill Dembski and Michael Behe. The Top scientists from both sides. Unguided evolution vs. Intelligent Design. Dogmatic naturalism vs. academic freedom. EPIC!!

  155. AmyD says

    The West Coast invites you to come home! We have lots of cephalopods! And universities.

  156. AnthonyK says

    Tom – your posts were not well written – either you are a real fuckwit or you were just trying to join in in a spirited fashion and weren’t up to it. In any event you’d be well advised to read the stuff here a lot before posting unless you have something vital to say.
    And never mention the Nazis. It’s seen as the ultimate cheap debating point.
    You also posted your email address by accident.

  157. flaq says

    Glad you’re ok PZ. Sounds like a close call.

    Oh, and this, from Felix:
    “Sometimes it’s a good idea to actually hit the gas and increase speed slightly when in danger of skidding out of control.”
    seems like really crappy advice, no matter how true it might be in theory. The one thing you don’t need when you’re about to collide with something is more momentum.

  158. Blind Squirrel FCD, Fungal Pedant says

    Tom @176: I assumed you were kidding. Parody of heddle et al.

  159. Blind Squirrel FCD, Fungal Pedant says

    Tom @201: I was wrong. You aren’t funny; you’re a jerk.

  160. Voldemort13 says

    I was hoping the story would end with you saying you woke up and realized it was all a dream. Anyways I’m glad you are OK.

  161. Blind Squirrel FCD, Fungal Pedant says

    Not only are you a jerk, you just posted your email in the user name field!

  162. Lurkbot says

    Late to the party, as always, P. Z., but I’m glad you’re (more or less) all right. Your story did cause a frightening flashback from many years ago, although mine involved a volvo and rain-slick pavement. Tried to stop, went sideways, hit a Jersey barrier and bounced off.

    I did manage to get home from the 1st Ave. S. bridge to Fremont, through Downtown Seattle, with the front wheels pointing at each other and going up-and-down lumpa-lumpa-lumpa with each rotation. That’s the advantage of a rear-engined car: in a front-engined, water-cooled car the radiator would have hit the fan and that would have been that.

    Hope you make it the rest of the way with no more drama.

  163. Geoff says

    I remember driving through weather like that with my father back in University in Southern Ontario. It wasn’t fun and it was the first time I saw my father scared.

    I’m glad you’re okay though PZed.

    Anyway, here’s some really REALLY cool PENIS graffiti!


  164. Kausik Datta says

    @219: Oh, my bad. You were posting as just Tom. You are a highly-published Astrophysicist. Were you just Poe-ing here or playing the Devil’s Advocate?

    And if no global definition of good or bad, then why worry about whether religion is good or bad?

    As far as I know, the definition of good or bad – as a dichotomous concept – is never simple. It primarily revolves around ethics of particular situations. Good to me is that promotes and advances a life, physically and/or intellectually. Thought, rationality, knowledge and understanding are good for us as human beings, because these have helped us evolve an ethical framework within which the potentials of life can be maximized. But it is not restricted to humans. Observe primates and other mammals; you’d get ample evidence of good. And I hope you’d notice that ‘good’ does not have to stem from religion of any kind.

    For humankind, bad is what thwarts understanding, diminishes knowledge, and restricts query by promoting unquestioning faith. My personal definition of bad is an action that causes harm/hurt to another individual, or life form, beyond reasonable limits. You would obviously ask me who or what sets the reasonable limits. The operating term here is ‘reasonable’, the reason being arrived at or inferred through actual empirical evidence. And there is also evidence that ethics or ethical values have been hardwired into us through the evolutionary process.

    Bertrand Russell said, “In judging of conduct we find at the outset two widely divergent methods… One of these methods, which is that advocated by the utilitarians, judges the rightness of an act by relation to the goodness or badness of its consequences. The other method, advocated by intuitionists, judges by the approval or disapproval of the moral sense or conscience. I believe that it is necessary to combine both theories in order to get a complete account of right and wrong. There is, I think, one sense in which a man does right when he does what will probably have the best consequences, and another in which he does right when he follows the dictates of his conscience, whatever the probable consequences may be.” You may find his thoughts in his Elements of Ethics, a 1910 publication, freely available on the internet.

    No doubt, the philosophy students among us may be able to quote renowned philosophers of olden and modern times about this not-so-straightforward issue; I admit I am not a philosopher, and I may have bungled in my attempts to answer your question. There are others here (Pharyngula regulars) who would be able to give you far more eloquent answers. [But it IS way down the original thread, and may not grab enough attention for that].

    As to the effect of religion, allow me to ask: Are you blind, Dr. Shanks? Can you not see the evil that religion has wrought upon humanity? Do you not witness it everyday in the events across the globe? Do you not see the insanity that religion allows facilely to be perpetrated in its name, simply because of its insistence upon mindless, unquestioning faith, and its promotion of superstition? Do you not see how it brings out the worst in people?

  165. NelC says

    Oh, goodness, PZ! So glad you’re all right, and well enough to complete your trip. Hope it doesn’t hit you later. When I had my prang a few years ago, I was okay for a while, but suddenly got shakey after I thought I’d put it all behind me.

  166. Felix says

    #226 flaq,
    not when you’re skidding towards a truck. I was thinking of a free road, sorry for not making that clear. Increasing momentum improves movement in a straight line, but when there’s something in the way you don’t want to get there at all of course ;) .

  167. CalGeorge says

    I hate driving in snow and ice (which I don’t really have to do anymore in California) but I hate even more the way other people drive in snow and ice.

    Glad you are okay.

  168. 'Tis Himself says

    I was born and raised in Wisconsin so I know about snow, ice and driving. What PZ needs to get around Minnesota in winter and early spring is a Hafner Rotabuggy. I’m sure he can pick up a surplus one really cheap.

  169. says

    What is it with you and cars? After your experience driving to Toronto and spending days in the barren Canadian wilderness, I would have thought you’d have minions take you places in a black carriage with the curtains drawn these days.

  170. Felix says

    Btw, how are the road safety rules for vehicles in the US? Do you have mandatory insurance, regular mandatory vehicle check-ups etc.?

  171. Paula Helm Murray says

    Glad you’re okay, that’s scary. I’ve done close to that (skid, no impact), AND had a kid run a stop sign in front of me on a slick day. (impact, I was going very slowly, car was ugly but drivable, and he got a ticket–he was driving an Imperial and had scraped a 11.5 x 8 spot in front of his eyes on the windshield. Sure he couldn’t see anyone at the stop sign!)

    Be aware that no matter how easy it felt you’re likely to be sore in the morning. Just tensing your muscles, etc. can make them feel like they’re bruised.

  172. bgbaysjr says

    I’m late, but none the less sincere, in saying that I am glad you are OK! And I am thankful as atheists are: to real people who did real things. I, too, am thankful to the designers of good tires, brakes, and bumpers, and I am thankful to the Trophy — now Hero! — Wife for rescuing you, and delivering you safe and sound…

  173. says

    Glad to hear you escaped unscathed, PZ. To be honest I have no idea what I would do in such a situation – I’m from Florida, and a frozen road is like alien terrain; I have never beheld such a strange thing. Probably I would just cover my eyes and scream.

  174. Stardrake says

    Dang, P.Z.! Glad you came out of it OK!

    And a note for the Euros who can’t understand why studded tires are banned in Minnesota: It all comes down to money.

    Studs chew up roads and require more maintenance. Maintenance costs money. And while Americans love driving, they hate spending money on road maintenance. (Or on basic building, for that matter–highways in the US cost far less per mile than, say, the Autobahn in Germany. And we get what we pay for.) So, since banning studs saved tax money for road maintenance, they were banned.

    I remember it happening back in the 1971–my dad ALWAYS used studded tires until the ban. (At least as far back as they were legal–which apparently was only back to 1965).

  175. AnthonyK says

    Hey goddamnit – ABS/ not ABS, pump brakes/don’t pump brakes, what is the best advice for driving on ice?

  176. Nerd of Redhead, OM says

    If you have ABS, leave it on and press and keep pressing the brake peddle and let the ABS do its thing. Without ABS, then pump the brakes. One of my cars has ABS (the one the Redhead drives) and one doesn’t. The ABS doesn’t necessarily stop faster, but it does stop straighter.

  177. tim Rowledge says

    I hate driving in snow and ice (which I don’t really have to do anymore in California) but I hate even more the way other people drive in snow and ice

    Well ok, but you will have to learn to cope with the insane reactions of california drivers when it – gasp! – actually dares to rain. I spent 13 years there after growing up in UK and I was shocked- shocked I say – at the spectacle. Y’see what seems to happen is that about half the driving population – which is larger than the actual population by some magic – decides “eek, rain, better slow down to a crawl before I die”. The other half seems to say to themselves “eek, rain, better speed up to get out of it before my paint job gets ruined!”
    Add in the terrifying proportion of drivers that are either incompetent or completely unlicensed and you are in for F U N my friend and that spells Fun with a capital “Aaaaaaaagh”.

    Now I live in rural Vancouver Island where I see fewer cars in a month than I used to see in a single glance during the daily 237 commute grand prix.

  178. BMS says


    Happy to hear you’re fine! What a spooky feeling that is, not to be able to stop, slow, or steer the car!

  179. says

    There is that evil atheist subverting Christmas again-. Wait, its Easter anyhow, the evil atheist is subverting it, going out in the snow for lectures adn such instead of sitting at home and reading the Bible. Horribly evil conspiracy….

    Glad to hear you are ok. Please take care PZ, we need you around- evil atheisting away.

  180. windy says

    Glad you’re OK! But still, best to watch out for symptoms like a stiff neck in the next few days, even if you felt nothing afterwards…

  181. rmp says

    Similar thing happened to me a couple of winters ago but not on the highway. A simple city intersection and I’m going about 10 mph and turn left. At that point the car turns 45 degrees and refuses to stop regardless of the abs. There is something about a slow motion accident that gives you plenty of time to use every golf word in your vocabulary multiple times.

  182. speedwell says

    Y’see what seems to happen is that about half the driving population – which is larger than the actual population by some magic – decides “eek, rain, better slow down to a crawl before I die”. The other half seems to say to themselves “eek, rain, better speed up to get out of it before my paint job gets ruined!” Add in the terrifying proportion of drivers that are either incompetent or completely unlicensed and you are in for F U N my friend and that spells Fun with a capital “Aaaaaaaagh”.

    I was talking to a co-worker who lives in Dubai today. She said they were having an ice storm today, of all things.

    (OK, all of you who swore you’d do something when Hell froze over, now’s your chance…)

    Anyway, I immediately got all anxious and made sure she did not have to go out on the road! The drivers are crazy-stupid enough out there in normal, dry, sunny, clear weather.

  183. dead santa says

    Whew, talk about late to the party.

    Sounds like PZ came across the dreaded “black ice.” I’d take snow any day. If the ice is thick enough, I don’t think even ABS will help you. I’ve only encountered “black ice” once and with similar results, but I was lucky enough to hit the ditch instead of the pickup stopped on the road 5 blocks ahead of me. It’s not a nice feeling when nothing you do to a car has any effect on it.

  184. karen says


    Hey goddamnit – ABS/ not ABS, pump brakes/don’t pump brakes, what is the best advice for driving on ice?

    The BEST advice is to drive a Zamboni. :-)

  185. karen says


    Hey goddamnit – ABS/ not ABS, pump brakes/don’t pump brakes, what is the best advice for driving on ice?

    The BEST advice is to drive a Zamboni. :-)

  186. Kemist says

    Ah, ice rain… brigns back memories of very similar near-accidents. Here driving on ice, whether a car, or an ATV, is something everybody has to master.

    With a car that has traction, the trick is to accelerate slightly as you change direction, so that the tires bite in the curves. It’s quite counter-intuitive and many people never manage the trick.

    One thing we used to do to train ourselves for winter-driving was to got to an empty parking lots and drift for fun, learning to control our slides. They should do that in driving lessons everywhere there’s a winter season.

  187. dogmeatib says

    Glad to hear you got there okay and that no one was injured.

    For those asking about braking, ABS, etc. As has been mentioned, if you’re talking a thick enough sheet of ice with a hill, or something like that, you’re basically out of luck unless you’ve got spiked tires, really heavy duty chains, or something like it. Your tires aren’t going to have any surface to grip, PZ probably stopped the tires moving right away, didn’t matter. ;o)

    For anti-lock brakes, they basically do the “pumping” for you. To pump them is often counterproductive and will mess up the system.

    Oh, one big one, 4x4s don’t help. When I was in college I worked for AAA, the #1 type of vehicle we pulled out of ditches on the first snow day? 4×4’s of all types.

  188. Kemist says

    Sounds like PZ came across the dreaded “black ice.” I’d take snow any day. If the ice is thick enough, I don’t think even ABS will help you.

    No, it won’t. ABS prevents the locking of the pads on the disks, which would results in a loss of friction between them. This will help you stop on a shorter distance in normal conditions.

    On ice, the main reason you can’t stop is a loss of adherence between tires and road; increasing adherence between disk and pad will have very little influence.

  189. Kemist says

    Oh, one big one, 4x4s don’t help. When I was in college I worked for AAA, the #1 type of vehicle we pulled out of ditches on the first snow day? 4×4’s of all types.

    And I bet you often had to put them back on their wheels. High center of mass = difficult to control in the best of situations, often impossible in bad ones.

  190. Kemist says

    Hey goddamnit – ABS/ not ABS, pump brakes/don’t pump brakes, what is the best advice for driving on ice?

    Just remember your physics.

    1) Don’t brake as you change direction. If you brake on a low-adherence surface, initially you will continue to go in the same direction. Turning will have unpredictable effects.

    2) Slow down waaayyyy before time. You’ll stop, it will just take longer.

    3) As you turn, accelerate slightly. You want tires biting the curve to help changing direction.

    4) Pumping/ABS and such won’t help you. Trying to brake on a short distance, no matter how you try to do it, will result in skidding. That’s why advice #2 is important.

    5) If you live in a wintery place, practice skidding in a safe place so that you get the feel of it.

  191. Nan McIntyre says

    There can never be too much friction.
    Or adrenaline :-)
    Well handled Prof, in particular for the resumption of the trip; a superstition-prone person may have conjured a third-party’s hand and stayed home.

  192. Jenny T says


    Btw, how are the road safety rules for vehicles in the US? Do you have mandatory insurance, regular mandatory vehicle check-ups etc.?

    Yes, there is mandatory insurance, although that doesn’t stop some people from driving without it (if you are caught there is a fine though). And check ups are also required, once every year or so, if I remember correctly.

    Glad you are okay PZ, and for once, glad I live in the deep south, so I don’t have to worry about ice or snow on the roads. Doesn’t make up for all the downsides though…*shakes fist* damn you McLeroy!

  193. says

    Congratulations on your survival! I hope your bumper sticker collection makes it out alive as well. Poor car. Apparently, it wanted to learn how to ski, and discovered too late you need skis for that.

  194. says

    Glad everyone’s OK. I learned a long time ago that sometimes you can’t stop on ice. It doesn’t matter how slowly you’re going. All you can do is hope to hit a rough patch of something before you collide.

  195. Tassie Devil says

    There seem to be a lot of people (on the other thread, but it’s OT there), who think that you should have a head CT after minor trauma ‘to be safe’.

    Dear Pharyngulites. Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once:

    Head CTs are not risk free. They should never be done without serious consideration. There is a measurable increase in cancer (mostly leukaemia) with CT scans, up to a 1/2000 incidence in children.

    Why is it that people won’t eat irradiated food (perfectly safe) and yet demand Xrays and CT scans (definite increase in mortality)?

  196. Christophe Thill says

    ” Hey goddamnit – ABS/ not ABS, pump brakes/don’t pump brakes, what is the best advice for driving on ice?
    The BEST advice is to drive a Zamboni. :-)”

    I would tend to say that the very best advice is to take the train. But what do I know? I’m European…

    PZ, glad to see you’re ok. Please be careful when you drive. We need ou daily dose of Pharyngula.

  197. ArabianStallion says

    Glad to hear you’re OK, professor.

    P.S. as an owner of a one myself, I concur with the motion above, your next care must be a subaru!

  198. 386sx says

    Good thing you kept a cool head. You could have spun out or something. A lot worse could have happened. Glad everybody is okay.

  199. CosmicTeapot says

    Gcardoso @231

    ASCII for evolution?

    I’ve tried a few. The last 2 take a bit more work as you can not use the less than or greater than sign, you need to spell out their html code (&lt. and &gt.).





  200. Peter Ashby says

    I know exactly how you felt PZ, when I have been in those situations I have been exactly the same: going through all the right things in the situation and volubly failing to go gentle into that good night.

    One of mine was when I was going home on my bike at the end of term at Uni, so I had the pack on the back. There was this wide sweeping left hand bend around and over a hill so I couldn’t see what was ahead. What was ahead was stationary traffic due to a wide load coming the other way. Did I mention it was newly wet after a dry spell? So when I touch the foot brake the back wheel slides out. So there is me three pointing it* down the road towards the back of my very own flatbed truck. Whose deck is level with my head. I had just decided to drop the bike and slide under him when I realised I was going to stop, which I did with my front wheel under the truck . . . I got myself a better tyre for the rear wheel after I made it home.

    *Two wheels and my well booted foot on the deck. Don’t ride in shoes kids, it isn’t worth it.

  201. Jack Rawlinson says

    Eesh. Memories of 25 years ago… aquaplaning at 6o mph towards a queue of stopped cars. Your “Why isn’t this car slowing down… why isn’t this car turning?” brought it all back with a shiver.

    I have been a great respecter of wet or icy roads since then. Glad you made it okay.

  202. John Phillips, FCD says

    Oh look everybody, we have one of the fly fishing creationist kooks visiting us. Say hello.

  203. Jenny T says

    Name in all caps. Check.
    Link to creationist website. Check.
    Excessive punctuation. Check.
    Strange question. Check.

    Nice to know that no matter how much things change, they still stay the same.

    Jamshed, he is not trying to teach anything from this. Although hopefully people living in areas where ice and snow on the roads are problems will take a hint if they haven’t already prepared themselves. Why don’t you try actually reading the damn post before you post your inane blatherings.

  204. El Guerrero del Interfaz says

    I was expecting lots of “christian” reactions and actually there are been some. But much less than I thought. Are fundies evolving? Are they getting more compassionate? I hope so.

    But what really surprised me is the the relatively high number of ABS/traction control deniers that have shown up. Really. I’m used to see this behaviour in young burned-brain macho bikers and similar. All of which never actually tried it. But this is supposedly a blog read by die-hard radical rationalists where I certainly did not expect to see such denialism and luddism about a tried and proved technology that has saved so many lives as ABS/traction control.

    Come on guys, get up to date, read about it, try it for yourselves. I was, and still am too often, a “blouson noir”, not unlike “L’homme à la moto” sung by Piaf. But, if I’ve survived after more than 40 years with my ass on all kinds of bikes, it’s because I’ve learned a few things. And that’s one. But we are skeptics so don’t take my word for it, try it for yourselves.

  205. Fernando says

    Good to hear that you are fine prof. Myers.

    I know what that is! This type of experience can be quite scary…

    I had some years ago an acident with a truck (the truck´s driver was drunk :/)and today i still dont know very well how things dont ended very badly to me and my family: the truck only smashed a bit of the right side of our car, but unfortunately totaly smashed another car and injured the man in it and hit another car, but in this case the driver of the car died…

    The only lesson we can learn from this all, is to act allways cautiously when driving: weather can be dangerous, but a human is the most dangerous thing in a road.

    I wish the best to all of you that need to be in the road ;)!

  206. Vestrati says

    Jebus must have steered you clear of a worse accident, its a miracle, halelujah!

    Err… anyways, icy driving sucks, I got a nice ride straight down a hill with no traction while plowing a month or so ago. Maybe this is god’s plague upon atheists, icy roads ; p

  207. Nerd of Redhead, OM says

    Simple Simon the Sociopath Lieman, still playing criminal by breaking into other peoples computer systems. That isn’t very christian of you. After all, you should follow the rules, since you expect others to follow them. And then bearing false witness? You god frowns upon such activity. It’s time to get on the right side of your god. Give up all technology like computers, medicine, cars, planes, trains, etc. Go and live like the Amish. Make your god happy.

  208. Nerd of Redhead, OM says

    Simple Simon, Who gives a shit what you think, since you obviously don’t think. And you are disappointing your god by your continued break ins to this site. He will punish you. You won’t live forever due to your lies and crimes.

  209. John Phillips, FCD says

    Nerd, I have come to the conclusion that simple simon would fail the Turing test miserably. I have seen AI programs on old 8 bit CPU machines that a better showing of intelligence.

  210. John Phillips, FCD says

    DOH! That should have said “I have seen AI programs on old 8 bit CPU machines that do a better showing of intelligence.

    RevBDC, I am getting your cooties, damn you, damn you to hell :)

  211. Nerd of Redhead, OM says

    Simon, your god is calling you. He wants you to play chicken in heavy traffic. Heed his call so you get into heaven.

  212. booger says

    I’m not even going to bother reading all the comments to see that I’m not the first to offer this sentiment, but–

    Just be secure in the knowledge that we’re all out here not praying for you.

    Not even a moment of silence.

    (Anyone give up religion for Lent?)

  213. Kemist says

    what are you trying to teach from this !!!!!!!

    Depends. What are you trying to learn ?

  214. Kausik Datta says

    Goodness gracious! This Simon character is a like that wheezy remnant of a bad purulent cough that just won’t go away despite a full course of antibiotics!

  215. Maargen says

    So you’re saying that at no time did you throw up your hands and beg: “Jesus Take the Wheel”? (If any of you know the song I’m referring to, I always thought that the song itself is a public hazard, since so many people would think of it as a PSA about what to do in exactly the situation Mr. Myers describes).

    But every once in a while there’s a glimmer of hope:

    Headline: Crash pilot who paused to pray is convicted:

  216. Peter Ashby says

    (Anyone give up religion for Lent?)

    For it to be meaningful the thing(s) given up for Lent should be valued by you in some way. It should be a sacrifice, not a blessed relief

  217. Akiko says

    I could never live where is is icy and snowy this time of year. Just driving in the rain freaks me out. It is overcast and 65 degrees here today. I like 6 months of summer, 3 months of fall, 1 month of winter and 2 months of spring. I think Minnesota has 6 months winter, 5 months almost winter and 1 month sort of summer with mosquitoes.

  218. MAJeff, OM says

    So you’re saying that at no time did you throw up your hands and beg: “Jesus Take the Wheel”?

    I saw some dude sing that on American Idol last week and was just, “What kind of fuckwit….?”

  219. Monado says

    Hang on, Anti-lock Braking Systems work pretty well on wet roads, not so well on ice because ice is slicker, but it’s a good tactic to brake just under the skid limit. It’s a little more efficient than pumping. As someone said, ABS do your pumping for you, faster than you can. That is, they release when they start to skid and then re-apply the brake gently. Where you want to switch off the ABS is on gravel, where you WANT the gravel to build up under the wheels.

    Do not get a Subaru utility vehicle. The center of gravity is too high. In fact, that’s a general problem with 4x4s.

  220. Kemist says

    So you’re saying that at no time did you throw up your hands and beg: “Jesus Take the Wheel”?

    Uh, no. And I will never knowingly accept to be a passenger in a vehicle where the driver might act that way. Or to be under that person’s care or responsbility in any other from.

    Such a person is unfit for any major responsibility.

  221. KI says

    Funny thing, I just learned the “Jesus Take the Wheel” song at last weeks hootenanny and I thought the punch line was “I’ll be in heaven tonight”, i.e. I’M GONNA DIE!

  222. James Cann says

    You may never see this email, for I, as you must I’m sure, skip over a lot of emails just to be able to shower and feed yourself…….
    But – a) Glad to hear you weren’t hurt – “Been there; Done that”
    b) If you were driving a newer car with ABS, do not pump or attempt to threshold brake – The point of ABS is that you mash the pedal, and the car keeps your wheels turning just enough to be able to manouver around those trucks the sky-fairy put in your way.
    c) I wonder if there have been any studies comparing relative crash-severity to religious / athiest motivations.
    How many religious people literally close their eyes and pray to Jesus to save them, versus athiests accepting their chaotic fate and trying to consciously minimize the damage done?

  223. WRMartin says

    To reiterate for the ABS/TractionControlAcronymOfChoice deniers:
    (WARNING: long post)
    Disclosure: IANAL (look it up – I’m not your granny). IANARD (I am not a race driver). IDHMMSSMIYD (I don’t have much money so sue me if you dare).

    Unless you are a card-carrying member of the Grand Prix Driver’s Association with a valid Super License then please leave your ABS and traction control systems on. Those of us around you (and our respective insurance companies) will appreciate it.

    If your vehicle has ABS and you need to stop quickly then apply the brakes very firmly and allow the ABS system to do its job. How many times per second can you pump your brake pedal? How many brake pedals does your vehicle have? ABS can do it faster, more accurately, and in most cases it can do each wheel independently.

    Remember, the brakes don’t stop the vehicle – they stop the wheels. If your tires are skidding then you won’t have much control over the steering. ABS allows you to brake at near race driver ability 100% of the time (even a race driver isn’t that consistent in foul weather) and you will retain the ability to steer and change the direction of travel and quite possibly avoid the accident. Another thing to remember is that in most cases if you can’t steer to avoid an accident you certainly don’t have the time and space to be able to stop to avoid it.

    In some vehicles (front-wheel-drive and possibly 4wd/AWD) it is possible to add a little throttle and proper steering input to ‘pull’ yourself out of a skid. Of course this requires a little extra room for the maneuver. Some folks remember the adage as “steer into the skid” and sometimes it’s easier to remember if you think of it as “point the wheels where you want to go”. Don’t over-correct because you will only ‘fishtail’ and the skid back in the opposite direction will have much more force and momentum than the initial one. Rally drivers (and others) use this flip-flop type of move to really toss a car into a slide and around a corner. Remember, steering into the skid only works well up until that moment when you are steering against another object or in the ditch.

    Skilled drivers can also use the handbrake to ‘assist’ with a little oversteer when the current understeer situation is bringing that guardrail a little too close for comfort. This is really only useful for us average civilians in slow-speed situations when there is a little extra room for the maneuver.

    Do not shift to a lower gear violently. The engine braking will also cause the same troubles as slamming on the brakes. If you can match revs and downshift smoothly then that’s up to you. Personally, I prefer to use the few precious milliseconds I have left before any potential unintended trip into the shrubbery to decide if I have the time and the room to tap the gas pedal or not and/or press on the clutch pedal and get the car into a ‘neutral’ mode.

    Those of us without ABS should press the brake pedal firmly until the moment of skidding then ease back until you are riding at the threshold of a skid. Pumping the brakes is ‘old school’, but it works for many people. If you can’t get that squeeze just right and hold at the skid threshold then pump away. At the threshold you may find out which tire is doing the skidding and decide on a different course of action (pun intended).

    As a last resort and only if you have passed the point-of-no-return (usually once the vehicle is >90 degrees off the intended direction of travel) it may simply be ‘better’ to actually continue the skid and do a complete 360 degree (or the remaining 270 degrees – I’ll leave the arithmetic to you) slide back around to the original intended direction of travel.

    This has already been mentioned but bears repeating: Play in the snow in a vacant parking lot. The commuter lot on campus is usually a good option. Use the extra room to learn what you and your vehicle can and can’t do. Put yourself into a skid on purpose and see how well you can control it and correct it. Sometimes learning how to make the vehicle skid is helpful for learning how to avoid one and how to correct one when it happens unexpectedly. Find a nice clear area to drive in a circle about 100-200 feet in diameter then slowly increase your speed while maintaining the chosen diameter. A little faster, faster, until you start to slide (rear wheel drive is fun here) add in a little counter-steer and continue pressing on the accelerator. You may not go any faster but you’ll have that car’s tail out and the front wheels pointing the opposite way and screaming with joy when you hit that sweet spot. Then once you’ve ‘mastered’ the opposite lock oversteer power slide go the other way ‘round until you hear that joyous scream (was that me?) then do a few figure-8s. Whoo hoo. ‘Roundy, ‘roundy we go sliding this way then that. All on the edge of disaster but also under control. Keep a sharp look-out for campus police or your local Barney Fife – they sometimes don’t think it nearly as much fun to watch you do it as it is to do. You have been warned. You can always try telling them some random dude on the Intarwebs made you do it! ;)

    Since it can’t be mentioned often enough I’ll do it once more: do not use your steering wheel as a handle for holding on to the car. When the going gets wild and whacky (as in a skid or hydroplaning situation) hold the steering wheel with your fingertips and steer the vehicle, don’t just hold on to the round handle in front of you.
    (WARNING: long post) <– for folks who read backwards.

  224. Everbleed says

    I wonder what hand braking does while the ABS is trying it’s darndest to stop the freakin’ car.

    Is it a Volvo you drive dear Professor?

    Glad you are still with us.

  225. Jyotsana says

    Count me among those who are happy to hear you’re okay, PZ! It was your site and all its wonderful commenters who helped me to acknowledge and embrace my inner atheist. Thank you!

  226. Daniel J. Andrews says

    Glad you’re ok, PZ. Your site provides a rich source of examples I can present to my students in my course on critical thinking skills. Dawkins was getting overused.
    I compare statements here to the ones from creationist websites and show how both have fallen into the same thinking traps, usually the ones based on lack of knowledge. :-)

    More seriously though, I am glad you are safe. Knock ’em dead at the talk!

  227. Ian H Spedding FCD says

    Stardrake wrote:

    And a note for the Euros who can’t understand why studded tires are banned in Minnesota: It all comes down to money.

    Studs chew up roads and require more maintenance. Maintenance costs money. And while Americans love driving, they hate spending money on road maintenance. (Or on basic building, for that matter–highways in the US cost far less per mile than, say, the Autobahn in Germany. And we get what we pay for.)

    That’s what surprised me when I came to live in Fargo: how poorly-maintained the roads were compared with the UK. I can understand that there are a lot more roads to be maintained in a whole continent compared with a small island, but even so.

    It made me understand why American cars tended to have a softer ride than European designs. It also made SUVs and pickup trucks seem like very sensible designs – practically a necessity – in those conditions.

    Mind you, with the imminent flooding here, I’m thinking I should’ve invested in a DUKW or Alvis Stalwart.

  228. AnthonyK says

    Thank you WRM. I will regard that as the last word on the subject. My the things I learn here! And PZ wasn’t even slightly hurt. Win all round.

  229. skeptyk says

    Glad you’re okay, PZ. The only problem with a new car is choosing the bumper stickers. Magnets are cool because they allow you to have a changeable stash. I loved my old Subaru for 231,000 miles, but I have to say, a little car with studded snows is a marvelous thing. (We can have studded tires in VT. They are noisy, but amazing.) I couldn’t even get ABS on my cheapass car, but I highly recommend it.

  230. Katrina says

    One of the things that surprised me, coming from the West Coast, was the lack of snow tires in the Midwest.

    Roads are not salted in Oregon, nor (though someone might know better than I) in Washington or Idaho. Instead, drivers are expected to use snow tires or chains.

    Are the roads worse there? They’re certainly not worse than the roads in Detroit.