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Normal Winter Driving

December 15, 2013

Last week, we had a heavy snowfall.  The city cleared the major routes pretty quickly.  It took them several more days to get to the residential streets.  My driveway was drifted in.  So was the street in front of my house.  Whenever there’s a heavy snow with a north wind, three large drifts build up on my driveway.  One side of the street also fills in.  There was a north wind this time.  It took me most of a day, off and on, to clear my driveway.  Cars were getting stuck in front of my house.  I wanted to get my car out once that day, and managed to do so without getting stuck.  I did it again the next day.  That evening, I was very pleased to see a grader that made about six passes along the street, scraping it right down to pavement.  It was driven by my neighbor who works for the city.  He only cleared that block, but it was the worst of the three I needed to get to a main route.  I only needed to drive straight down the next two.

Apparently, all this is normal winter driving in Winnipeg.  Traffic has packed the snow into ice.  Tires run in icy ruts with ridges of ice in between.  All of the residential streets are rutted and icy.  They’re bumpy at intersections where you have to drive across the ruts.  Even where you are going straight down a street, the ruts control the car.  You have to be extremely careful steering the car out of the ruts.

The main routes are better, but they still have ruts too.  These are worn down to bare pavement where the traffic is heavy.  There are strips of ice in between the ruts.  The painted lines on the roads are mostly gone now, covered by the strips of ice.  Are you supposed to drive in the ruts or drive where the traffic lanes used to be?  It’s not a problem on straight sections, but on the curves the inside lane becomes quite narrow.  The main routes can be slippery too, especially after a light snowfall.  It’s too cold for salt to melt the ice.  The city does spread sand on slippery sections, but it disappears pretty quickly.

The ruts on residential streets are certainly a problem.  A few years ago, just down the block from my house, my car suddenly turned sideways and stopped in a snowbank.  Fortunately, there were no other cars on the road and no parked cars.  I just backed out and continued on my way.

Last winter, I was driving slowly down my street after a snowfall when I stopped nose to nose with another car heading towards me.  Now, this other car should have pulled in between the parked cars to let me get by.  I pointed to that side so the other driver could see me.  The other driver just shook their head.  So I pulled over between the parked cars to let the other car through.

Again last winter we had more snow than usual.  The city piled it on the boulevards, but this created a problem at the corners.  It was impossible to see oncoming traffic when you had to cross the street.  I remember pulling out slowly and carefully until I could see.  By then I was part way across the lane.  Do I stop or do I go?  Will the other cars stop?  I don’t like that at all.

The intersection at the end of my block has stop signs on the cross street, but none on my street.  Twice last winter I had to hit the brakes at that intersection because other cars had pulled out right in front of me.  One was a close call.  After that, I slowed down and kept my foot poised over the brake pedal whenever I approached that intersection.

Yes, I suppose these are normal winter driving conditions.  I have to be very careful in how I drive, especially in the ruts, and watch out at all times for other cars too.  I don’t want to be in a collision, even if it’s just a fender bender.  It’s not worth the trouble.

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