Maze of Twisty Little Passages

By Jim Poston, Virginia City News, 06/27/2014


It’s the last issue of the month, so I’m going to try to finish the Ten+ Commandments of Driving the Grade.  Here’s what I’ve brought down from on high:

#01 – Thou shalt pull over for faster traffic
#02 – Honor thy passee, therefore passeth expeditiously
#03 – Thou shalt not throw crap unto the roadway
#04 –  Maintaineth thy uniform speed
#05 – Giveth the lowly bicyclist two cubits in passing

#06 – Thou shalt not tailgate slower vehicles if there hath not been an opportunity to pulleth out
#07 – Thou shalt give out-of-state plates more leeway
#08 – Thou shalt not intentionally moweth down any kind of beast

And now, the moderately exciting conclusion:


#09 – After dusk doth fall, thou shalt dimmeth thy headlights when approaching another citizen

In my old age, my eyes have gotten really sensitive to glare at night.  But I remember when I was about 19 years old with young eyes, driving up Lewiston Grade in Idaho (when it was still a long succession of switchbacks), a car came towards me downhill around a turn, and the headlights hit me right at the apex of the turn.

I was temporarily blinded and panicked because I didn’t know where to go and couldn’t see the road.  I decided to just maintain the same turn radius until I could see again, and hopefully I wouldn’t just keep turning into the oncoming lane after it went straight.

Anyway, I survived.  It’s important to dim your headlights at night.  Around corners, you can see the glow of oncoming headlights reflected in the guardrail.  Be kind;  dim ‘em before you see ‘em.

And another thing:  you don’t need your fog lights during clear weather on the grade.  At 45 mph, you’re over-driving properly adjusted fogs anyway.

#10 – In ice and snow, thou shalt goeth slow

In physics, there is a little thing called coefficient of friction.  For good tires on an asphalt surface, the coefficient is about 0.72, which means that the resistance to sliding is about 72% of the weight of the vehicle.

On ice, the coefficient is about 0.17, which makes it four times slicker than dry asphalt.

Although four-wheel or all-wheel drive does help you go in the snow, it does not help you stop (it might help in cornering).  To reduce your stopping distance to what it is in normal conditions, you have to drive slower.

But simply because the road is shiny, does not mean it’s icy.  If you’re not sure, test the road when there’s no one following you.  Just jam on the brakes for a second.  Do you skid, or does anti-lock kick in?  If not, it’s probably just wet.  You have more than twice the traction of ice.

Don’t creep down the grade just because the road is shiny.


To be honest, I wrote these “Ten Commandments” just the way they occurred to me, off the top of my head, so they’re not necessarily the “Top” 10.

If you have some pet peeves or commandments, let me know.

Oh yeah, fair warning:  16-year-old Price Poston is a fully licensed driver in the state of Nevada, subject to graduated licensing rules.  Most of his miles are on the Comstock, so look out!

Jim Poston

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