Where Do Drivers Go After Abandoning Their Vehicles in Snowstorms?

A lot of them just walk home.

Cars in the snow, Feb. 22. (Mick Hangland-Skill)

My question is about drivers abandoning vehicles in snowstorms. Where do they go after leaving their vehicles when TriMet, cabs, Lyft, etc., might not be available? —Tom W.

Funny you should mention it, Tom—I received your question just hours after abandoning my own vehicle (something I rarely do now that high-speed police chases are a thing of the past). As I drove home in last week’s blizzard, I found myself drifting sideways into a snowbank. Thinking quickly, I rebranded this maneuver as “parking” and undertook the last, brutal leg of the journey—a perilous three blocks—on foot. True story!

I say this not to invite comparisons to Admiral Byrd (though if the mukluk fits…), but to embody one answer to your question: A lot of these drivers simply go home. People do most of their driving near where they live, so when you ditch your car, you may well be within walking distance of the crib. Failing that, you can either swallow your pride and call your 4-by-4-owning brother-in-law (or whomever) or do as the Portland Bureau of Transportation recommends: Park your car and take public transit, which is usually available even in severe weather.

Of course, when your car is wallowing and your wheels are spinning impotently, you may find yourself wondering: What IS parking, really? Isn’t parking just a name we give to a car whose journey we no longer wish to share? If I got out right now and took the keys, could any man say I was not parked?

It’s an interesting point. That said, if you can’t get your car’s chakras out of the travel lane, you’ll almost certainly find that towing is a word we give to a car whose journey is about to cost us $300. Both PBOT and the Oregon Department of Transportation were firm on this subject: Block traffic, get towed.

If you can get out of the flow of traffic, however, not only will you avoid a tow, you probably won’t even get a ticket: PBOT suspends overtime parking citations during winter weather events. Of course, the authorities would vastly prefer that you not get stuck in the first place, ideally avoiding all driving in months with an r in their name. If that sounds like a tall order, don’t worry: No one’s going to remember a word of this advice by the time it snows again.

Questions? Send them to dr.know@wweek.com.

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