Yes, it seems that winter is upon us. Again.
I keep hoping that “global warming” will result in the elimination of the coldest of seasons, and the (ugh!) snow that comes with it.
In all honesty, I don’t mind winter. It’s a very pretty season, and Christmas (and my birthday) wouldn’t be the same without it.
I’ve watched movies and tv shows set in Calfornia, Florida, Texas or other warmer climes that have depicted Christmas in those locations, and it just doesn’t seem right seeing Christmas trees, lights, and decorations without snow, and with people walking around in shirt-sleeves.
And there are times I don’t mind being outside — like today. Okay, I am currently inside, looking out through the window. But I was outside earlier, walking to or from my van, and although there’s a bite to the wind, it wasn’t all that bad.
Ask me how I feel after tonight’s Santa Claus Parade and I might have a different opinion.
But I do like a sunshiny, crisp winter’s day.
I will admit that I do complain about winter; it is my least favourite seasons. I prefer warmer weather, sitting outside in shorts and a t-shirt, listening to the birds and a light breeze through the trees, water lapping on the shore or a perhaps babbling brook nearby.
But we have winter for at least four months — often the better part of five — so I guess we just have to get used to it.
Of course, there are many winter enthusiasts here: skiers, snowmobilers, ice fishermen (and women), snowshoers, and others who truly enjoy bundling up and heading out into the snow. (I shivered just writing that sentence.)
You’d think, though, with such a lengthy winter season, that more people would be ready and able to drive in the snow. Sadly, there are far too many people that take a few weeks to adjust their driving habits, and more still who just don’t bother.
There are always several collisions blamed on “road conditions,” as if it comes as a surprise that there would be slippery roads in the winter. Driving too fast, and waiting too long to begin braking might have something to do with it, too.
I recently had a discussion with a fellow teacher who was sweeping his car off before heading home. He had just been told, by another teacher, that he could be fined for not sweeping off his vehicle, and shared this information with me. He has started sweeping his vehicle off, not wanting to be fined.Section 74 No person shall drive a motor vehicle upon a highway, (a) unless the windshield and the windows on either side of the compartment containing the steering wheel are in such a condition as to afford the driver a clear view to the front and side of the motor vehicle; and (b) unless the rear window is in such a condition as to afford the driver a clear view to the rear of the motor vehicle. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 74 (1).
The set fine for this offence is $85… for EACH window that is obstructed. If you’re lucky, the cop may just give you a single ticket for $85.
One recent Saturday, while doing driving lessons, I watched three drivers have to deal with the result of not having swept their vehicles off. Fortunately, for them, there was no cop around to give them a ticket, but even more fortunately their laziness did not result in any damage or injury to others.
In all three cases, the drivers had made a feeble attempt to clear the front windshield, but had neglected to sweep off the roof of their vehicle.
There are two problems with this:
1) The belief that “it will blow off.” Yes, some of it — maybe even all of it — can blow off. Typically it does so over the course of a few hundred metres or a kilometre or so. Typically it creates a mini “snowstorm” in their wake, which obscures the vision of the drivers following them.
2) The snow does not “blow off” — usually when the weather is mild, and the snow is more sticky. Instead, as the interior of the vehicle heats up, and heat passes through the roof and begins to melt the ice and snow on the roof, it creates a serious hazard. When the driver stops, the momentum will carry the snow forward and down the windshield.
It was the second eventuality that I witnessed three time that Saturday.
Imagine, coming up to an intersection, stepping on the brakes, and having your entire front windshield instantly covered with 10 cm of wet snow and ice. Your visibility is instantly zero! Turning the wipers on doesn’t help, because the snow and ice is too heavy for the wipers to move.
If you haven’t yet stopped you will probably panic and slam on the brakes, brineging your vehicle to an immediate halt (provided the road is not slippery), risking a rear-end collision.
Or, you could run into the now unseen vehicle or pedestrian in front of you.
As I mentioned, in all three cases the drivers were fortunate to not be involved in any further mishap, and after getting out and clearing the snow — with their hands, as apparently none had a proper snow brush in their vehicles — they were able to continue their journey.
Speaking of journeying… how many of you have been driving down the street, only to have to swerve around a pile of snow that a homeowner has left on the road after shovelling their driveway? Or worse, have had to drive through such a pile of snow because the oncoming traffic precluded you from swerving?
If you were to ask these homeowners they would likely tell you they put it on the road so the low can push it up onto the snowbank.
The fact is that this action will eventually result in the road becoming narrower at that point, as the low will not be able to lift the extra snow above the bank.
As well, the plow may not pass by for several hours, often not until the middle of the night, resulting in this obstruction presenting a hazard to drivers passing by until that happens.
This isn’t just inconsiderate, it is an offence under the Highway Traffic Act.Section 181 No person shall deposit snow or ice on a roadway without permission in writing so to do from the Ministry or the road authority responsible for the maintenance of the road. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 181.
Again, the set fine for this offence is $85.
By the way… other than a handful of minor items (fail to surrender license, fail to wear helmet, fail to have proper marker lights, etc.) the minimum traffic fine is $85.
My perennial complain is the four-wheel-drive drivers who believe they are invincible. Yes, your truck may very well be able to gain traction starting off. Good for you, and I am often envious as my front-wheel-drive spins its wheels starting off.
However, I can only shake my head watching 4WDs race down a snowy street well above the speed limit. Yes, you can start off and go fast.
But you can’t stop any quicker. In fact, since you have so much momentum built-up, it’s going to take you longer to stop than me.
Folks, like it or not, winter comes every year. There shouldn’t be any real surprises. The roads will be slippery, the intersection even more so.
Slow down. Leave early, as it may take longer to get where you’re going than you think. Don’t be in a hurry.
Whether its work, your kid’s hockey game, the ski hill, or the mall, we all just want to get there and back safely.
But… that’s just my opinion.