The winter season is upon us and with it comes the snow, ice, sleet and all the other elements which make driving in the winter much more challenging. It is also during the winter season that we see the police issuing tickets for Highway Traffic Act offences that we wouldn’t normally expect to receive any other time of the year. There may even be some of you who are committing traffic offences without realizing it. Avoid the aggravation and potential expense of a traffic ticket and help promote safe winter driving by following the rules of the road outlined below.
Clean the Snow and Ice Off Your Vehicle
Clean off your car properly! Yes even the snow on the roof of your vehicle. Under the section 74 of the Ontario Highway Traffic Act it is an offence to drive a motor vehicle where the driver does not have a clear view from the windshield, the driver side window, the front passenger side window, or the rear window. While this section does not define what a clear view is, it certainly requires more than scraping the minimal amount of ice off your front windshield so you can see ahead of you.
Although it is not an offence to fail to clean snow and ice off the roof or hood or your vehicle, failing to do so does create a safety risk to you and other motorists on the road. The fact that you are running late for work, you simply don’t have time or you can’t be bothered to clean off your vehicle are not reasonable excuses. With the exception of maybe something such as a medical emergency, it is actually hard to think of a reasonable excuse that would justify you not spending the extra few minutes to clean off your vehicle properly. The bottom line is that whether you are trying to get to work on time, your kids are late for school or whatever the reason may be, it simply cannot be more important than the safety of others on the road.
As a motorist I would support a law being introduced that would require motorists to clean off the hood and roof of their motor vehicle. Many of the states in America already have laws in place that make it illegal to drive a vehicle that has not been properly cleared off, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
If you were to take the time to review the hundreds of provisions in the Highway Traffic Act, it is actually hard to understand how there is not a law dealing with this issue. For example, we still have a provision requiring any one travelling on a highway with a sleigh or sled pulled by horse to have at least 2 sleigh bells attached. If you don’t believe me have a look at section 77 of the Highway Traffic Act. The maximum fine for this offence is $5. We still have this law, but yet we can’t enact a law requiring motorists to clear snow and ice off their vehicle. Take a look at the following video and decide for yourself whether you think we should have a law that requires all motorists to clean the snow and ice off their vehicles prior to driving.
Windshield Wipers and Mirrors
A related provision in Highway Traffic Act is section 66 which deals with windshield wipers and mirrors. Your vehicle must be equipped with mirrors that provide the driver with a clear view of the roadway behind the driver as well as front windshield wipers that can be controlled from the driver’s seat. While failing clear off side mirrors or using defective windshield wipers is not an offence under the Highway Traffic Act, you can still leave yourself vulnerable to civil liability. Some examples that have attracted liability include; a windshield obscured by frozen windshield washer fluid, using a defective windshield wiper blade, a windshield covered in frost, and driving with a dirty windshield.
Make Sure Your Licence Plate is Visible
Snow, ice, dirt and salt can all contribute to making the exteriors of our vehicles much more dirty in the winter months than they would otherwise normally get. Pursuant to section 13(2) of the Highway Traffic Act a licence plate must be kept free from dirt and not obstructed by any other object. Avoid getting an unnecessary traffic ticket and make sure both your front and rear licence plates are clean and the numbers are visible.
We all need to contribute to making our roads a safer place, particularly in the winter when weather conditions can make driving more challenging. However, if you have been charge with an offence under the Highway Traffic Act, contact me today.
Read more about motor vehicle offences.