It’s raining across Southern California. There’s a saying here that when it rains in L.A., everyone starts driving faster. And people out here drive fast as hell even when it’s completely dry.
From the windows of our offices here on the 11th floor, I’ve got a pretty good view of the freeway. Whenever it rains, you’re almost guaranteed a bird’s eye view of an accident or two. I’m looking down on one now. Seems someone got a little overzealous with their right foot, started hydroplaning and veered across a couple lanes, coming to rest with the concrete median barrier embedded in their left front fender. Traffic is backed up for miles… you can’t even see the end of it. I have to think people in other states, the ones that see really bad winter weather, are better drivers by default. When you have to deal with snow and ice on a daily basis I think you’re more apt to learn a thing or two about car control, even if the learning process is totally passive. You’d also need to have the good sense to keep your speed down in adverse or even slightly questionable road conditions. One of my very first overseas press gigs was traveling to Finland with Porsche to drive the then-new Cayenne S. This was at the end of November, and the test facility they took us to is actually located north of the Arctic Circle. I’ve never been so cold in my life—think there was a little snow and ice about? My driving partner was a Canadian. One of the exercises they had prepared for us was doing donuts on a completely frozen-over skidpad. It was a lot of fun, but try as I might I couldn’t keep the Cayenne from looping around for anything more than maybe three quarters of a revolution. My colleague, on the other hand, could make the entire circuit in succession, holding the big SUV in a completely controlled sideways drift. It turned out he was also a winter driving instructor, so he was really a pro at driving in slippery conditions. Here in the greater Los Angeles and Orange County areas, we don’t have to deal with snow or ice. Most times it’s warm, clear and sunny—that’s why people like to live here. It’s why I do. With such perfect conditions 90 percent of the time, people get complacent and begin to think themselves invincible behind the wheel. Even when the weather turns wet. If the population in a city like Denver, or Chicago, or Philadelphia, or Buffalo all had this mindset, those places would shut down completely for what, four months out of the year? Maybe part of the driver’s ed curriculum in sunny Southern California ought to include a little schooling on wet weather handling. Just a thought.