Preventable or not: Winter not a wonderland for Doe


Alas, it was painfully evident that winter had arrived as John Doe’s tractor-trailer prepared to crest a hill, at 45 mph, on a desolated pitch-black stretch of divided four-lane Piddling Pike near Mud Butte, Mont., at 2 a.m. At least he was headed south, Doe mused rhetorically as he pondered what a week in the Florida Keys would be like at this time of year.

Meanwhile, a gusty wind shrieked against Doe’s co-phased CB antennas, tossing sleet and heavy snow horizontally against the shotgun side of his rig. Ugh! To maximize his powers of concentration, Doe extracted a handful of Spicy Ranch Doritos from his Super Size bag, boosted the volume on his stereo and squinted through the … “Screeeee! WHUMPPO!!”

Oh no! Technically speaking, Doe’s drive tires had experienced an ice-induced spontaneous cessation of adhesion, resulting in a wind-enhanced lateral slide into a steel lane divider that reconfigured his left front fender – big time. Luckily, Doe was unscathed – aside from almost choking to death on his chips – and no other vehicles were around to stumble onto the dark wintry scene and make matters worse.

Doe received a preventable-accident warning letter from his safety director, which he promptly contested because of the weather conditions, so the National Safety Council’s Accident Review Committee was asked to pass final judgment. To Doe’s dismay, NSC ruled against him, noting that 45 mph was too fast for blizzard conditions at night, especially considering that he’d been on the verge of blindly cresting a steep hill.