Dubbed Seasonal Driving Disorder (SDD), researcher Roderick Crawford describes it as a neurological syndrome in which the presence of snow literally causes synapses in the brain to cease firing. In turn, people suffering from the disorder lose the ability to recall even the simplest driving procedures, such as how to maintain a consistent speed, or what the brakes do."We've all seen it out on the highways during a snowstorm," remarked Crawford. "Suddenly people are speeding up and slowing down indiscriminately, failing to brake properly, spraying out gallons of wiper fluid for no apparent reason, etc.
"For years most assumed these drivers were just stupid, or perhaps intoxicated," he explained. "But now we know that these people have a serious brain disorder."
And its effects are far from isolated, Crawford added. "We have reason to believe SDD affects millions of people in the United States alone," Crawford said. "If you don't believe me, just drive up Route 128 in Boston during a flurry."
There was evidence of the disorder just this past weekend, when unprecedented early snowfall hit the Northeast. This caused some especially severe SDD reactions, given that our brains are conditioned not to expect snow until December, Crawford explained.
"Our experience was that drivers throughout the region simply refused to acknowledge that it was snowing," confirmed Karl Amero of the Massachusetts State Police. "A good number of them clearly sped up and started texting more."
One driver, Fred Hammerstein from Holden, Mass., was hospitalized with frostbite after being discovered packed in snow in his Fiat 500 convertible. "I do not close the top before Nov. 1, dammit," he told EMTs before slipping into a coma.
"It's a classic case," said Crawford when told of Hammerstein's symptoms. "It's amazing we don't see more snowstorm convertible comas."
SDD may even affect drivers outside the car, said Crawford, pointing toward the large number of people using small children to save their parking spaces as possible sufferers. "And the preponderance of snow in Alaska could go a long way toward explaining the Palin family," he added.