Writing Sample: Foliaplaning

Silicon Valley, always on the leading edge, is taking groundbreaking steps to prevent a danger most drivers are unaware of: foliaplaning.​​​

Yesterday, in a joint news conference, the mayors of Cupertino and Sunnyvale announced the Gustav-Larson law. This law, which is named after the two mayors, requires the use of chains in residential neighborhoods during the fall when leaves are present. Local off-duty firefighters will be standing by to assist drivers. Workers from the Sierras, who earn extra money during the winter by putting chains on skiers’ tires, will be brought in to train and help wherever necessary.

Wet leaves can cause cars to lose traction just as easily as snow, ice or hydroplaning. This phenomenon is called foliaplaning. “A big part of the danger of foliaplaning,” explained Cupertino mayor Helmi Larson, “is that most drivers are not expecting it.”

Local community organizations concerned with public safety, particularly the firemen’s associations, have been lobbying for this law for nearly a year now.

One source of concern was that the construction at the new Apple Headquarters was already a major cause of traffic slowdown in the area. However, the success of on-going Apple Mitigation Projects has made a big difference.

Sunnyvale mayor Erik Gustav was not an early proponent. Like most high-skilled technology workers in Silicon Valley, Erik Gustav immigrated from Sweden. The Swedes are, of course, experienced in driving on slippery road surfaces. “I originally thought of foliaplaning as a First World problem. In Sweden, we would not concern ourselves with issues like this. If someone kills himself by foliaplaning, we simply give him a Darwin Award, sweep the debris off the road and move on. I thought that driver education would be a better course of action. I believe that all drivers should know the actions they can take in slippery conditions that mitigate the risk.”

Cupertino Mayor Helmi Larson was also a late proponent. “I saw this as primarily a testosterone issue. No mom would drive fast in a residential neighborhood, especially when there are leaves on the ground. This is not a problem in Sweden, where even the men drive responsibly.”

Much of the credit for this step forward in public safety goes to Cupertino fireman Peter Ugarte. Ugarte commented: “I got the idea last winter when I went skiing with the guys and saw firemen putting chains on the skiers’ tires. At first I thought they were volunteers, but then my buddy from the firehouse said ‘They do it for a price, Ugarte, for a price.’”  

Further Samples 

P. G. Wodehouse and Walter R. Brooks

Peter V. Tamas is author of With Seabiscuit and War Admiral at The Race of the Century , available on Amazon and as an Apple iBook. 

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