February 21, 2012
By Jordan W. Charness
Suddenly the car ahead swerved to the left; then it swerved to the right. It was icy, and the driver fought for control. He managed to finesse his car back into the centre lane of the highway where he slowed down before pulling to the right. I found his manoeuvring quite perplexing but it wasn’t until later that I realized what had happened.
We had just come out of a period of seriously weird weather. The temperatures had fluctuated all over the place. First it snowed, then it rained, and then the temperatures plummeted to freezing before it started all over again. What this whole mess left behind was a layer of ice covered by a few centimetres of snow covered by another thin layer of ice. It made driving treacherous and it took forever to scrape the snow and ice off the windshield, side windows and rear window.
It’s amazing how most people will look at a weather report, stick their noses out the door, and know for a fact that tomorrow is going to be a mess and still not allot an extra five minutes in the morning to get up early and clear the snow and ice off the car. People often run out at the last moment and expect to clear off 14 hours of accumulation in 15 seconds. It doesn’t work that way.
Many people clear off their windows, but neglect to clear the roof. Onto the roads they go trailing bits and pieces of snow and ice which break off and fly from their cars.
And many truck drivers seem to forget about the ice and snow that accumulates on the top of their trailers. Since the surface area is so much greater than that of a car and the height of the roof is so much higher, the pieces that fly off can be that much deadlier.
It was just this phenomenon that had caused the car ahead of me to zigzag all over the highway. During my brief 20-minute trip I saw metre long pieces of snow and ice fly off the top of trucks and slam down on the road and the unfortunate cars behind them. I too had to zig and zag to avoid the incoming snow missiles, though a few of the smaller ones did hit the roof of my car.
Fortunately there wasn’t any damage to my vehicle but I did notice a couple of cars that were dented and one that drove off the highway after being hit in the windshield with a giant piece of snowy ice.
Every province has laws against driving a vehicle without properly cleaning off the snow and ice accumulation. Drivers of vehicles who fail to do so can be hit with a fine and be held responsible for any damage that they cause.
Theoretically, if a large piece of icy snow flew off a vehicle and into the windshield of the car behind, causing an accident or injury, the driver of the vehicle who neglected to clear the snow away could be charged with criminal negligence, since it was easily foreseeable that failing to clear the snow and ice could cause damage and injury.
Motorists who witnessed such an event should call 9-1-1 to report the incident and try and get a copy of the licence plate of the offending vehicle. Even if the driver is not aware of what’s going on behind him or her, he or she will still be held responsible the damage caused.