Winter Driving In Ottawa

So Much Snow

If you live in the Ottawa area, no doubt you have heard the recent forecast calling for a lot of snow. And by a lot, I mean a month's worth of snow over a couple of days. That is of course, if the weather predictions are correct. But I will say that so far this winter, the predictions have been almost spot on. There were a couple of times where we didn't receive all the snow that was predicted, but that was probably a good thing. Last month, Ottawa had the most snow ever for a January since 1999. More than 97 cm of snow fell last month in Ottawa and it came down almost everyday. Ottawa saw snow fall 28 of the 31 days in January. Now it looks like after a bit of a reprieve, we could see significant snowfall again this week.

It's Only Snow

Skaters on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa
Skaters on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

I'm sure this is also the case in many other major cities, but it seems that every time it snows, people drive like it's the first time they've seen snow. You would think that during a month like January, where it snowed almost everyday during the month, that people would have been used to driving in the snow. But that isn't the case and there are many people who are overly cautious. By overly cautious, I mean that they are following way to far behind the car in front of them, they are braking hard on roads that have a ton of salt on them and are not slippery and delaying everyone behind them who are driving for the road conditions. Just because there is some snow on the roads doesn't make them a death trap and a reason to drive 20 km/hr on them. If people are so afraid of the road conditions and driving on them, they should probably stay home or find another means of transportation. The way some of these people drive, it does nothing but cause frustration in other drivers and then they start driving beyond what the conditions suggest.

Watch the Little Man

I have often seen people honking their horns at the slowpoke in front of them or the person hitting the brakes a couple hundred metres before the

Traffic Light
Traffic Light Photo courtesy of Wikemedia.

light, which happens to be green at the time thinking they need that amount of space to stop should the light change. Have any of these people thought of looking at the hand signals for pedestrians at traffic lights on intersections? Most hand signals will turn to red some time before the traffic light turns yellow and many of them count down by the second to when the light will become yellow. At least that's the guide I've been using for many years to judge how much time I have before the light turns yellow and then red. It's worked out well for me the last 40 years, so I would think that it would work for others as well.

Other Locations with Snow

I've lived in some brutal locations when it comes to winter weather. Ottawa has nothing compared to some of the cities out west like Winnipeg, where snowstorms are not only common, but the winters are also much colder. I spent some time in Yellowknife, NWT where it gets bone-chilling cold and where it isn't uncommon to see temperatures well below -40C. The same goes for Thompson, MB where I lived for over 10 years. In Thompson during the winter, snow removal crews used to cut the stop signs out of the snow banks so you could see them. The problem with that was, because the snow banks were so high, you didn't see the stop sign until you were a few metres away from it. People in Ottawa have it very good compared to those places when it comes to snow removal. Here in Ottawa people are complaining that the sidewalks are not cleaned the day after a snowfall, where in many smaller communities, the sidewalks may not be done for a week or two afterwards. In places like Thompson, you were lucky if your side street was cleared within the week. People learn to adapt and find ways to make their commutes work.

Don't Get Stressed Out

Downtown Ottawa after a snowfall. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.
Downtown Ottawa after a snowfall. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

I recently saw some pictures from our relatives who live in Timmins, Ontario, and they have so much snow, they don't know where to put it anymore. One of our relatives' driveways has banks over 8 feet high currently and their snowblower has a hard time getting the snow over them and they must throw most of it over by shovel. I'm sure this next wallop of snow we are going to see here in Ottawa is going to be a real shock as it is predicted to be possibly 40 cm, which I don't think I've seen in the 19 years I have lived here. If it does happen to be as much snow as predicted, I'm prepared to stay home and wait it out until the roads are cleared. If I must drive, I will get to where I must go without having to drive at 10 km/hr on the main thoroughfares. I have a lot of experience in the winter driving department and I don't have to take the manual out every time it snows. Driving around Ottawa in the winter is the easiest place I've experienced over the years and I don't understand when I hear people talk about how difficult it is. We get snow every winter, people need to stop thinking that they are going to slide off the road and die if they go over 20 km/hr and learn to judge and drive to what the current conditions dictate. It may not be safe to drive the speed limit, but when the roads are ploughed and salted and essentially bare, driving 20 km/hr in a 60 km zone and slowing down and frustrating other drivers isn't making you safe. If someone is too afraid to drive in the winter, take a bus or taxi and relieve yourself of that stress. Having stressed out people on the road isn't making matters better for others trying to reach their destinations.

Cheers,

GP Joa

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