Driving during the winter season is challenging and can be dangerous. Having good winter tires installed and adapting your driving habits to conditions on the roads are the first lines of defense. However, many drivers seem to be unaware (or are ignoring) one of the most dangerous aspects of winter driving – the Mobile Igloo. Driving a ‘Mobile Igloo’ against the law. A ‘mobile igloo’ in this case, is a car covered in snow or ice, sometimes with only the front windshield cleared. Even though drivers have a legal obligation to make sure their cars are cleaned off before driving, common sense appears to elude some people and it creates a potential, lethal menace to other drivers.
When snow or ice is not properly removed from a vehicle before going on the roads, especially on highways, it dangerously obscures a driver’s vision. More importantly, cars, vans or semi-trailer trucks, that have not been properly cleared off, especially on the roof – can also become killing machines. Huge chunks of ice or snow can suddenly dislodge, hitting cars behind them. It can cause other drivers to swerve and lose control, sometimes even breaking windshields that can lead to serious and life-threatening accidents. Yes, trying to remove ice or a foot of snow off a car in below freezing temperatures could be a daunting experience indeed, and especially inconvenient for those who have to park their cars outside all winter long – but it is a responsibility that comes with driving, period.
Just recently, Martin Burger, a man from Ontario suffered considerable injuries after a piece of ice flew off a car that was travelling in the opposite direction on Hwy17 near Renfrew, just one hour west of Ottawa. He saw it coming, but did not expect it to go through the windshield – but the ice smashed through and his face was seriously cut and bruised. He could feel blood dripping down his face, but somehow managed to drive his car to the side of the road and then called 911. Paramedics arrived soon enough and took to him to a hospital. Although he is expected to make a full recovery, he required eight stitches to his forehead and four on the eyelid of his right eye. His eye was also injured by the impact, it affected the ocular pressure, and his pupils were dilated. His 16-year-old son was in the car with him and thankfully not injured.
Just last week, I was driving along Hwy 40 West, when a sheet of ice came flying off the roof of a car ahead of me. The car was a fair enough distance away, but the ice came towards me at a speed I was not expecting. Other cars were beside me and it was too dangerous to swerve out of the way. Luckily, the ice hit the front end of my car near and instantly broke apart. Had I reacted differently I would have likely hit another car, people could have been killed or seriously injured and this article would be very different – or not written at all. I was slightly shaken by the event, but soon regained my composure.
There are fines and penalties in place for drivers whose vehicles are covered in snow or ice. However, it might not be enough and perhaps the fines should be significantly raised or even made a criminal offence. A driver must take the time required to make their car safe. Being worried about arriving late somewhere is nothing compared to the loss of a life. Be careful, be smart and be safe on the roads – all lives matter. If logic does not appeal to the senses, perhaps the SAAQ fines and demerit points will for now:
– DRIVING A ‘MOBILE IGLOO’ IS DANGEROUS AND PROHIBITED: A vehicle’s windshield and windows must be cleared of any matter that might reduce visibility for the driver. An officer may impose a fine of $100 to $200, plus costs, on the driver and require that the vehicle’s windows and windshield be cleared of ice, snow, or any other matter that reduces the driver’s visibility. The driver must comply with this requirement. *Furthermore, no person may drive a vehicle covered with ice, snow, or any other matter that may detach from the vehicle and constitute a hazard for other road users. Offenders face a fine of $60 to $100, plus costs.
– FAILURE TO ADAPT YOUR DRIVING TO WEATHER AND ROAD CONDITIONS: A $60 fine, plus costs and 2 Demerit Points.