Winter weather a driving concern

(Photo by Jody Waardenburg)
(Photo by Jody Waardenburg)

Winter is definitely here.

Monday’s blizzard swept the Waterloo Region with ten centimetres of snow during the day and another 15 centimeters at night.

Brutal winds of up to 60 km/ hour, as well as a wind chill of – 27 C put the Region to be under a blizzard storm watch.

“City staff will be working diligently over the next few days to make sure that these roads get cleared,” said Megan Harris, director of communications for the City of Waterloo. “We just ask everyone to be patient as the plows come through and get to their areas.”

Harris explained that the city prepares for extreme weather conditions.

“This is something that we monitor quite closely,” she said. “When it comes to a certain level of snow and ice we have to go into a full plow.”

“We are always prepared.”

As for driving conditions, drivers are warned against taking their vehicle out when the weather creates such hazardous conditions.

It could very well lead to a collision.

Extreme weather posed problems for drivers around Christmas after the Dec. 22 ice storm left roads slippery and many houses in the dark.

“In the time period from Dec. 22, when the ice storm occurred, to [Monday’s blizzard], we’ve had 385 collisions reported,” said Waterloo Regional Police Services public affairs co-ordinator Olaf Heinzel.

“In the same period last year we have had 325.”

Heinzel explained that WRPS cannot determine if such collisions were a direct result of the weather.

“Weather may be a factor, but it is one of many,” he said.

He emphasized that when weather becomes so extreme that it is potentially dangerous, the first decision a person should make is whether they need to drive.
“If they do, they should be aware of what the weather is like and what the roads are like between where they are now and where they’re going to be,” Heinzel said. “Prepare accordingly.”

There are a number of contributing factors that cause a road collision outside of inclement weather, according to WRPS. The condition of the vehicle, for example, is crucial for winter driving and needs to be prepared.

“We still see people driving with snow covering their windows, with their headlights, or taillights off,” Heinzel said.

“You also need to look at the driver’s experience with winter conditions,” Heinzel said.

“If they are an inexperienced driver, if you don’t have to drive you probably shouldn’t.”

Heinzel also warned Waterloo to expect delays when commuting.

He said drivers should budget extra time while travelling, proposing that travel time could take twice as long.

When drivers are rushed, Henzel feels that they are more inclined to speed and neglect the weather conditions.

“Remember that the speed limit is at the top of the limit,” he said. “You don’t have to drive that fast.”

In terms of safety precautions, it is strongly recommended to keep good  communication with family members and people visiting.

While winter has certainly made its mark in the Region of Waterloo, city officials encourage residents to be patient, be safe and to be considerate.

“Remind them to shovel driveways and sidewalks to make it safer for their neighbours,” Harris said. “Please just be patient and help everyone out.”

“Do what you can.”

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