By Jordan W. Charness
“I’ve got another driving story for you…if you’ve got the time,” were the first words out of Peter’s mouth when I saw him last week. As regular readers know, Peter’s stories often make for an interesting column and I will usually make the time to hear him out. The problem is you never know what he’s going to say.
“Did you see the new Daredevil movie a few years ago?” He wanted to know. How this was going to relate to driving was beyond me but I still answered in the affirmative. In fact I actually enjoyed that movie as both Peter and I have long been fans of comic book superheroes. Peter then launched into a lengthy debate with himself as to the relative merits of Daredevil vs. Spiderman and which one was the better superhero as well as their similarities and differences. Fascinating as this might have been, I had a lot of work to do and we hadn’t really arrived at anything remotely useful for this column.
His next line however, was a bit of a bombshell! “Anyhow, when me and the kids were driving up north last week we were sure that Daredevil had dropped onto the roof of our car while we were driving on the 15 north.” I have to admit that got my attention.
“Was this part of a publicity stunt?” I wanted to know. “Please tell me exactly what happened,” I begged. So he did.
The Sunday in question was a bright, beautiful sun-filled day. The temperature hovered around minus 7 degrees Celsius and it seemed like a great day to take the kids tubing. While driving on the highway Peter and his family heard a sound that was very similar to the sound a superhero might make when landing on the roof of your car.
The highway was perfectly clear and Peter looked around him to be sure that he hadn’t hit anything. The noise continued and it very much sounded like someone was hanging on to the roof of their SUV. Since the family had just seen the Daredevil movie the night before, their imagination, fuelled by the youngest one’s exclamation that “Daredevil must have landed on our roof!” did make Peter, however momentarily, think that indeed was just what had happened.
Peter looked out his back window and saw what looked like white softballs being thrown off the roof onto the road behind him. He immediately signalled that he wanted to pull over and carefully drove onto the shoulder. By this time, he was pretty certain that superheros do not drop onto cars in Canada. But nonetheless, it was with a bit of trepidation that he opened his car door to see what had happened. He looked on the roof and saw…nothing.
Well, it was not exactly nothing – it was more like ‘no one’. What he did see on top of his roof was a four-inch thick sheet of ice with pieces missing out of it. Since Peter drives an SUV that has a fairly tall roof, he rarely cleans the snow off the roof itself.
It had not snowed in several days and the hood of Peter’s car was completely snow free. The roof however had snow that must have mixed with water and compacted into a thick slab of ice. The sound that Peter heard while driving was the sound of chunks of ice breaking free from his roof. The remaining slab of ice was grinding against itself while he drove, making the continuous sounds of a superhero on his roof.
Peter pushed the rest of the ice off his roof and noticed that the slab itself probably weighed well over 100 kilos. Even the small softball size chunks probably weighed three or four kilos. These were the pieces of ice that had been whipping off the roof of his car at 110 kilometres per hour! If any of these pieces had hit another car it would have caused a heck of a lot of damage if not an accident.
According to law you are responsible for damage caused by items that leave your car while it is in motion. This would include anything that you are irresponsible enough to throw out your window or anything that is not properly attached to the body of your car. This would include spare tires, roof racks (and items placed on the roof rack), mudguards and mirrors.
Fortunately there was no accident in this particular case. But if there had been one causing injury, in addition to a highway safety code infraction, Peter could conceivably have been charged with criminal negligence. This criminal code offence carries with it a criminal record and a jail term.
While Peter certainly had no intention of causing any accident when he neglected to clean the snow off the roof of his SUV, the results of his negligence could have been tragic. This is just one more important thing to think about if you are the owner of an SUV or minivan and leave it parked outside during our wonderful winters.