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Why do motorists still drive blind in the winter?

Published January 2, 2013


We have endured the first significant snow falls of the winter season and once again there are the careless motorists and truckers who refuse to clean the snow off their vehicles before driving.

It is important for safety reasons for all motorists to remove all the snow and ice from their vehicles before heading out on the roads. Too many drivers simply take a token swipe at some of the snow on their vehicles, hop in, start up and hope the wind blows off the rest of the snow. I have seen motorists driving on the highway with nothing more than the swath cleared by the wiper blades for them to see their motoring world through.

There really is no excuse for not cleaning all the snow off of a vehicle before driving. There are many snow brushes on the market that allow drivers of any size to reach the roof on mini vans and SUVs. In less than two minutes almost anyone can clear snow and ice from a vehicle.

More: This is the ‘Golden Rule’ of winter driving

More: The 8 worst winter driving mistakes

Outward vision is critical to motoring safety. Leaving snow on the windows dramatically decreases a drivers ability to view all the important driving information around them.

Some motorists will take a bit of time to clear their windows but will leave snow piled on their hood, roof and trunk. It won’t take long for that snow to migrate onto the windows as the vehicle travels through the air. Rear windows in particular are susceptible to this eroded snow as they generally sit in a low pressure area where snow can settle (see the photo above).

Not only is this a safety issue but also a legal issue.

Police can charge motorists with having an obstructed view. Section 74 of the Highway Traffic Act states that “No person shall drive a motor vehicle upon a highway (a) unless the windshield and the windows on either side of the compartment containing the steering wheel are in such a condition as to afford the driver a clear view to the front and side of the motor vehicle and (b) unless the rear window is in such a condition as to afford the driver a clear view to the rear of the motor vehicle.”

In other words, if your windows are covered in snow or ice and do not give the driver a clear view, the driver can be charged under this section. The term “highway” applies to all roads city or rural which are not private.

There are other critical areas of the vehicle that need to be kept clear of snow for proper functioning. All the lights need to be cleared of snow so that other motorists can see the vehicle from behind, the side or oncoming. If the lights are blocked by snow and ice, it could mean other motorists and truckers will not see that vehicle leading to collisions.

Every vehicle has a ventilation system that relies on outside air. Most vehicles have a fresh air ventilation intake at the base of the windshield in a naturally occurring high pressure area. Snow and ice needs to be removed from this area so proper air flow through the vehicle’s cabin can be maintained to help keep windows clear of fog and frost. Without this fresh air source, humid air inside the vehicle will only recirculate and condense on the cold windows causing severe fogging or frosting.

Around the base of the windshield is usually the windshield washer nozzles. Some are located right on the wiper arms. These need to be kept clear of ice and snow so windshield washer fluid can reach its target – the dirty windshield. With salt covered roads providing the worst environment for spray off tires, not having proper functioning windshield washers can lead to driving almost blind. This dangerous situation can be avoided with a simple cleaning with a snow brush.

To make matters worse, many times the snow left on a vehicle will blow back over onto the vehicles following. I have seen mini white outs behind transport trucks, mini vans and SUVs whose drivers were simply too lazy or careless to properly clear off their snow. We have all seen large chunks or snow and ice falling off of large trucks on to the roads and trailing vehicles (see photo above). Some of these have caused damage and led to crashes.

It is simple to do and takes little time but it can make a big difference in your motoring safety. Clean all the snow off your vehicle before heading out for a drive.

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