Driving on Ice Crash Course

I was cruising around on a snowy December day in 1966 when I learned that studded snow tires will help you get GOING, but aren’t all that great at stopping.

Jim Stone, Carol Klarsfeld and I were creeping down a steep hall off Bertling when I came around a curve to find a car skidded out and sideways on my side of the road. I put on my brakes, but the same ice that kept him from going UP the hill kept me from stopping going DOWN the hill.

You can’t hurt a 59 Buick LaSabre

My car caught his left rear door and left rear quarter panel, crunching sheet metal and peeling paint. The damage to my 1959 Buick LaSabre station wagon was so insignificant that I didn’t even shoot a photo of it.

It was certainly less a dent than I got on my first driving lesson with Ernie Chiles.

First on the scene

Considering how many miles I drove a year under all kinds of condition, I was pretty lucky (knock wood) never to have been involved in a serious crash. I DID have a few fender benders, though.

I was cruising on a twisty road in Southern Ohio when a farm tractor pulling a trailer full of kids pulled out of a lane in front of me. I opted to steer into a ditch to keep from hitting the tractor. Damage was minimal, but I reported the crash anyway.

The trooper who pulled up recognized me and said, “I bet that’s the fastest you’ve ever been to the scene of an accident.”

How to deal with insurance companies

Not long after that, I was following a bus that was coming into a small Ohio town. The bus stopped. I stopped. The guy behind me DIDN’T stop. He was cited. He had insurance with Grange Insurance, which took its sweet time settling with me.

I was hanging out at the highway patrol HQ trading gossip and complaining about getting jerked around when one of the troopers gave me some advice: “Call the agent and tell him that it’s a good thing it’s taking so long for them to get you a check. You’ve noticed some pains in your neck and back that didn’t start hurting right away. If it doesn’t stop hurting by tomorrow, you’ll go to the doctor to get checked out.”

Insurance adjuster tracked me down

I did as he said. That night, I was covering a high school football game in Logan, OH, where this photo was taken. At half time, a guy walked up to me and asked if I was Ken Steinhoff. I said I was.

It was the insurance agent from Grange. He wanted to know if we could go to my car to get out of the rain. When we got to it, I asked if he would like me to get a flashlight so he could inspect the damage to my vehicle.

“No, I just wanted to get out of the rain so I could write you a check if you think the amount is reasonable.” It was more than reasonable. My aches and pains went away immediately.

13 Replies to “Driving on Ice Crash Course”

  1. It looks like Price Drive, all right, though we didn’t have a LOT of traffic on that residential street. My husband and I bought our first house there in 1964 or 65. It was the next-to-last house on the left.
    I can’t imagine how we got around back in those days, without the money to buy 4-wheel drive vehicles. Fortunately, there was a back way into that street off Cape Rock Drive. I never missed a day of school at Cape Central, because I couldn’t get out.
    Cape is a beautiful town – but it’s treacherous when it’s icy or when it’s full of gushing water!

  2. I see something in these photos that you hardly ever see anymore… rust on a car.

    I just sold my 11-year-old Honda CR-V that lived less than three miles from a salt-spraying ocean and there wasn’t a single rust spot on the vehicle. And, I can assure you, it wasn’t because I was washing and waxing the car on a regular basis.


    1. That’s a good point. I traded a couple of cars because of rust that caused water to leak into the trunk where I kept all my photo equipment.

      Modern cars are much better, but your mother’s 2000 Odyssey had some rust that had to be fixed.

      Where you live makes a difference.

      When I moved to FL, I figured cars wouldn’t rust since there’s no need to salt the roads. Wrong.

      I saw that one of the company cars owned by a VP was up for sale. Knowing that he was a low-mileage driver and a neatnik, I asked him if it would be a good buy. He said to run the other way. “I live in a condo on the beach. It’s eaten up with rust from being bathed in constant salt spray in the air.”

  3. That is at the curve on Price Drive. Our family lived up at the top of that hill. There are some serious hills around there: Bertling, Henderson, West End Blvd. Just no easy way in/out!

  4. The accounting of Ken’s accident brought a smile to my face compared to how an auto accident is processed today. Then we had an honorable police officer offering practical advice to a “kid” involved in a fender bender. The kid talks directly to the insurance agent who is allowed to make a decision regarding the reimbursement independently. In today’s world there would be a minimum of 3 lawyers involved, a judge and a jury.
    A much simpler time in life….ah, the good old days!

  5. Those big cars of the cheap gas era were awful on ice and snow. I did a 360 in my dad’s 1962 Plymouth 48. Then I got a 59 VW and never had a problem. My (first) wife had a wreck in my new VW on snow. I think Ken came to her rescue!

  6. Can we all just discuss Sprigg at the top, before the decent down in front of Towers…the terror of a young girl, college student, who has never drove on ice or snow. Cresting the hill my 1980 Pontiac Sunbird starts to spin sideways so I naturally brake which I learn later is wrong. Two guys on the sidewalk around halfway down the hill told me to put it in park. The car stopped and one of the guys took it rest of the way down. That’s the bad thing about growing up in the ice belt, at some time your going to need to get home!

    1. I hit a stretch of black ice on an otherwise dry road in Ohio once. I did a complete 360 and ended up facing the way I was headed when I started to do the circle. That taught me to watch out of places where water flowed down a hill and across the pavement. What started out as wet turned to ice when the temperature dropped below freezing.

      I pulled off on an icy shoulder one day to take a picture and watched my unoccupied car slide slowly down to rest on a guard rail. Ice is nothing to fool with.

  7. My car had a similar experience about 10 days ago. While visiting my son in O’Fallon, IL, I had him drive my car—an all wheel drive Honda CR-V. Now, most of O’Fallon is flat land, but not his driveway. I got out of the car and manage to walk on the grass to go in the house. I avoided walking on the driveway as it was layered with a half inch of solid ice. A few minutes later, my son called me on my cell to come outside. He had gotten out of the car to get the mail from his mailbox. Then he noticed the unoccupied car sliding down the driveway toward the street. Fortunately, there was no traffic passing by. We wondered if putting in the emergency break may have prevented the slide, but we didn’t test our theory. Ice is so deceptive!

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