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Winter Driving (Update)

The Sault Ste Marie Police Service has issued two Media Releases recently, reminding drivers to adjust to road conditions. Their concern stems from the fact that overt the past 3 days there have been 46 motor vehicle collisions reported. Forty-six.

The Sault Ste Marie Police Service has issued two Media Releases recently, reminding drivers to adjust to road conditions.

Their concern stems from the fact that overt the past 3 days there have been 46 motor vehicle collisions reported.


That’s astonishing. Or… perhaps not. From what I have seen, I’m not surprised by that number. I’m more surprised that the number wasn’t higher.

Driving down Second Line recently I watched as two vehicles wove through traffic at at least 70 km/h n near white-out conditions.

It would seem that many drivers consider the Speed Limit to be merely a suggestion, and that the Rules of the Road apply to others, but not themselves.

Enforcement — or lack thereof — is part of the problem. After all, nothing is “illegal” if you don’t get caught.

For one of my driving lessons we sit at the Mac’s at Pine and McNabb as I explain to my students about Traffic Signals and Intersections, and we watch people make improper right turns, try to “beat the yellow”, talk on their cell phones and other infractions. 

I figure the Police could rake in about $10,000 an hour in fines if they did a “blitz” at any major intersection in the City.

But, we cannot lay the blame solely on lack of enforcement. 

Personal responsibility — or lack thereof — plays the major role in people’s driving habits.

Especially in winter, we need to adjust our driving habits.

Unfortunately, too many drivers do not heed this advice. I don’t know whether they believe their own skills are superior than those of other drivers, or if  perhaps they believe that modern automobiles are engineered to get them through any conditions.

I see some drivers in jacked-up four-wheel drive trucks, and for sure they can get going and go pretty quick. But… they can’t stop any faster than anyone else. In fact, because they were going faster, it will take that much longer to stop.

Even in the summer, there are drivers who attempt to make what should be a 15-minute drive to work in under 10 minutes. In the winter, when conditions cause traffic to slow, these drivers still seem to try to make the drive in 10 minutes.

I have heard and read comments about the conditions of our streets, with some people blaming the Board of Works for the poor road conditions.

With over 500 km of roadways in the City, I feel the Board of Works does a remarkable job.

Current standards have the City sending out crews after 5cm of snow has accumulated, and under normal conditions will have all streets plowed within 12 hours.

Read the City's Winter Operations FAQs, here:

Snowbanks are cut back or removed on major routes as needed., and as conditions permit.

I do hear complaints about roads not being plowed and banks encroaching on the roadway, but the fact is that this is what we have to deal with in the winter, and we must adjust our driving habits.

Let’s be honest, there are an awful lot of careless drivers, winter or summer.

Whether they are talking on their phones or texting, eating while driving, or just not following the rules of the road, some drivers are just a hazard.

A few days ago driving down Great Northern Road I saw a woman driving in the next lane holding a paper take-out tray with 3 coffee cups and a bottle of juice in her right hand, and steering with her left. I don't know why she wouldn't have placed it on the passenger seat or the floor.

It’s risky on our streets, and no matter how good a driver you believe yourself to be, you must also be constantly vigilant for those drivers who aren't so careful.

All driving schools teach defensive driving, and try to instil good driving habits in their students, including showing consideration to other drivers.

Unfortunately, there is too much of a “me first” attitude, today. Especially on our roads, this attitude can lead to a lot of problems.

I could go on for pages and pages of the bad habits and downright foolish incidents I’ve witnessed, but we’ve all seen them.

What it comes down to is just a simple message, the one the SSMPS has been trying to get out: adjust your driving habits.

Roads will be slippery, especially at intersections.

Slow down. Stop sooner. Be prepared to stop at any time.

Watch for other drivers who may be sliding through intersections, and be prepared to take evasive action.

Watch for drivers behind you who may not be able to stop, and be prepared to take evasive action.

Leave space between you and the vehicle ahead, and the vehicle beside you. If you’re driving side-by-side with the vehicle in the next lane, and that driver has to take evasive action, you could be in the way, and involved in a collision.

It may not be your fault, but that's small consolation when your car is wrecked.

Similarly, if you’re following too closely and the driver ahead stops suddenly, you may not have sufficient time or space to avoid a collision.

On dry pavement, staying back 2-3 seconds is advised. In winter conditions stay even further back. Those few seconds aren’t going to make much difference in your driving time, but a collision will surely spoil your whole day.

One other bit of advice: sweep off your vehicle.

All of it.

Don’t just run the wipers and start driving. You need to have an unobstructed view of the roadway — not just directly in front of your vehicle, but from curb to curb, too.

Please don’t say, “It will blow off.” Yes, it will blow off… onto the vehicles following you. You will be driving your own mini-snowstorm, making conditions dangerous for those behind you.

The alternative, especially when it is milder, is that when you stop at an intersection a roof-full of snow will slide down and cover your windshield.

Also, having snow cover your headlights, tail lights, and turn signals further reduces your visibility to other motorists.

And, by the way, it’s an $85 fine if you get caught driving without having swept-off your vehicle.

(Last winter I saw a cop pull over a snow-covered vehicle. The driver was obviously given the choice between a getting ticket or sweeping the vehcile off, because there he was on Gt Northern, sweeping it off.)

And once again, please, adjust your driving habits for road conditions.

If we all drive with a bit more caution, and more consideration for others — motorists and pedestrians — perhaps we can reduce the number of collisions.


But… that’s just my opinion.

Saw plenty of drivers who need to adjust their driving habits, tonight...

I was out on the road tonight, running a couple of errands, then taking a student for a driving lesson. Driving down Great Northern, in front of M&M, I noticed an Ambulance - lights flashing - was approaching from behind. I pulled over, and the car that was tailgating me tried to pass and cut-off the Ambulance. Traffic was so heavy and so few people were pulling over, that it took the Ambulance about 3 minutes to weave through traffic and reach the Canadian.  

Later in the evening, after dropping off my student, I was waiting to turn left from Goulais onto Second Line. I noticed a car approaching very quickly from the left, which was not slowing for the amber light. Just as his light changed to red he braked and slid through the intersection at about a 30° angle and plowed up fully onto the snowbank, narrowly missing the utility pole.