By: Blizzard & Kosh
15 December 2003

We relearned a valuable lesson today. Do NOT use your cruise control when driving on slippery surfaces.

We were heading North on I-70, just North of the Pennsylvania/Maryland boarder at 0130. The highway had been wet, but clear of snow, for the most part. Traffic was light, and we were making good progress. I had the cruise control on in an effort to prevent me from speeding excessively in this new truck. Seems with the exceptionally smooth ride, excellent traction and powerful engine, the truck speed would creep up without anyone knowing it. I didn’t want a speeding ticket and this was the easiest way of preventing it.

Kosh and I were arguing about how much further we were planning on driving for the night when there was slight, quick rise in the road, onto a bridge surface. Suddenly, the back end broke to the right. I corrected (being well versed in skid control), but the skid accelerated, then reversed, as if I over-steered. We were now going almost backwards, at a high rate of speed – headed straight for the median. Kosh was praying loudly, and I was trying to figure out why nothing I was doing was working.

We hit the median with a big plume of snow, preceded down to the ditch, and back halfway up the other side. We both expected the Toyota Tundra to roll, but it didn’t. In fact, it felt very comfortable and protective.

After coming to rest, we saw another pick-up just ahead of us that had done the exact same thing moments before, only she knocked a tire off a rim on impact with the ditch. We checked that everybody was all right, set out flares to warn others of the bridge, called 911 to get the infamous Pennsylvania DOT on the job to sand the bridge, and report the accident. I also waited for the State Police to arrive, as I was not going to abandon a lone female in her disabled truck at this time of night.

Meanwhile, we just put it in 4-wheel drive, and drove up the embankement. No trouble – no slipping in about a foot of snow (didn’t even have to put it in 4W Lo or put the chains on). I love Toyotas, and I am really impressed with the performance of these Bridgestone Revos despite my mishandling of them.

Examining the accident scene revealed what had happened. As the truck hit the raised bridge entrance, the pickup bed popped up slightly, taking weight off the back wheels. The wheels lost traction, and started spinning on the ice. The cruise control sensed the vehicle slowing and added power to the already spinning wheels, thus accelerating the skid. Even though I corrected for the skid, I didn’t disengage the cruise control (task saturated at the moment) and wasn’t going to touch the brake in a skid.

The skid accelerated until the front wheels (now slowing to under 30 mph after we spun around) told the cruise control to shut off. After that it was a simple backwards skid into the median.

Total damages: One slightly bent (new) running board, a crease in the back passenger side door and frame (still don’t know where that came from) and a need for an alignment. The auto body shop estimator was laughing his butt off – “Doc, you just left here last Monday, after that deer strike repair!?!” I was not laughing at the $835 estimate on my (no longer) new truck.

I haven’t turned the cruise control on since...
Blizzard & Kosh

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