Since we’ve no place to go

Snow driving tips as an editorial in a cutting edge alternative newsweekly always seems a little “Family Circus,” but golly gosh darn it, somebody has to make sure our readers are around to pick up next week’s issue at nearly 600 newsstands in Northern Nevada. Truth be told, our winter-driving-tips editorial is as much a tradition here as our annual editorials, “Beware the road rage,” “Kids are in school; slow down,” and “Marijuana is good, safe and fun; legalize it.”

But first a word from our angry sponsor: We live at 4,400 feet in the Sierra Nevada range. It snows every year. One of the most important duties of our various government agencies is to provide for public safety. The RN&R staff members who were around when the city of Reno sold off our snow removal equipment were skeptical then, but officials claimed to have a plan. Back during the massive dump in January 2005, when up to 81 inches fell in parts of Reno, city officials claimed to have developed a new plan to rent heavy equipment on short notice when there was big snowfall. The plan reads, “During periods of heavy snowfall, the City may request the assistance of private contractors through the [Associated General Contractors].”

During the not inconsequential snow of this past week, we learned once again of the weaknesses of the plan, which apparently is to slowly and poorly clean off major roadways, while students, business, workers, seniors and tourists hang fire. The Reno City Council, particularly, appears to have no clue how to maintain relationships with private contractors. No “plan” appeared to come on line until—not when the storm was predicted—a foot of snow was actually on the ground. Two days after the storm, major arterial downtown streets were still nearly impassable for light automobiles, and piles of loose snow remained even on Center Street near Liberty Street.

Reno, Sparks and Washoe County all failed in their responsibility to maintain a safe environment for the citizens who live here. The short-sighted plan of getting rid of snow removal equipment all those years ago has proven itself a failure, putting the responsibility and obstacles on the citizens government is supposed to support. Time to renew the database so that operators come online before the snow season starts—and do it on an annual basis.

Here are some quick tips for driving in snow:

1) When the snow is deep, stay home. Get off the freaking road. If you must travel by automobile, try not to contribute to rush hour traffic.

2) Drive at a speed safe for conditions. The pavement can look dry and still be icy.

3) Carry an emergency tool kit. And tire chains.

4) If you begin to skid, take your foot off the gas pedal. Steer in the direction you want the car to go.

5) Practice with your ABS braking system. You have to resist the urge to pull your foot off the brake pedal. Non-ABS systems require an entirely different style of braking.

6) OK, this isn’t snow driving, but we’d prefer it if you didn’t warm up the car in the garage. You may have to send a last-minute text before you get on the road, and it would be better if you didn’t pass out before you hit “send.”