News Local

Winter's first storm creates dangerous driving conditions

By Ian McInroy, Barrie Examiner

MEHREEN SHAHID/SPECIAL TO THE PACKET & TIMES
This collision between lines 5 and 7 was one of many reported on Highway 11 Friday as motorists tried to adapt to winter driving conditions following the region's first snowfall.

MEHREEN SHAHID/SPECIAL TO THE PACKET & TIMES This collision between lines 5 and 7 was one of many reported on Highway 11 Friday as motorists tried to adapt to winter driving conditions following the region's first snowfall.

Area motorists had their first spanking from Mother Nature Thursday night and Friday morning, but drivers aren’t the only people affected by winter’s first wallop.

From 6 p.m., Thursday until 11:15 a.m., Friday, Barrie OPP investigated 20 weather-related collisions, most of those along Highway 11 between Barrie and Orillia, and 12 other snowy calls for services, according to Sgt. Peter Leon.

“Thankfully, nobody was hurt, but people were driving too fast for the road conditions,” he said. “We had very icy conditions as soon as the sun rose. It heated up the road surface, which caused the ice to form.

“Anywhere there was a curve or a hill in the road, people were losing control and struck the median or left the road or struck other vehicles,” Leon added. “The message is, and has always been, see the snow, go slow.”

At this time of year, motorists aren’t yet into their winter-driving mode, Leon said.

“We have to constantly remind people that just because it’s sunny and the road appears to be dry, or there appears to be snow just on the surface, they need to slow down and drive to those road conditions,” he said. “Friday morning was certainly an example of people not doing that and losing control on the icy surface.”

Leon said one incident on Highway 400, near Forbes Road, Friday morning wasn’t as much about road conditions as it was about awareness.

“A person who had their snow tires installed on Thursday lost a tire, coming right off the vehicle,” he said. “When people are getting their winter tires changed over, they need to physically make sure the tires’ lug nuts are on tightly and return to the shop within 100 kilometres to get them re-torqued or torqued to the manufacturer’s recommendations when they are installed.”

No other vehicles were involved in that incident.

“Having tires re-torqued is a small-time investment to ensure those tires are going to be safely on that vehicle,” Leon said. “If it had happened when other vehicles were involved we could have been dealing with a very different dynamic. If it happened in the city of Barrie, the tire could’ve struck another vehicle or a pedestrian.

“We’ve certainly had other incidents like this in the past.”

South Simcoe police investigated 17 crashes, six with minor injuries, Friday morning.

One of the smack-ups included a collision between two vehicles at County Road 27 and Bradford West Gwillimbury Line 8 at approximately 8:45 a.m., which left a badly damaged boat in the middle of the road.

Charges are pending in that incident.

“Our message is simple,” said South Simcoe police Staff Sgt. Steven Wilson. “Please adjust your driving according to the road and weather conditions. Almost all of these crashes could have been prevented.

“Drivers need to give themselves extra time to get to their destinations safely,” he added. “Cars need to be warmed up, windows cleared of snow, ice and frost, and windshield fluid should be topped up.”

Police say they strongly recommend snow tires.

Barrie police also investigated numerous fender benders Thursday night and Friday attributed to the slippery road conditions but there were no serious injuries.

But not all snow-related incidents occur on roadways, according to Simcoe County paramedic services Deputy Chief JC Gilbert.

“There is the collateral damage when this kind of weather happens,” he said. “People who have chronic health issues are affected by the cold.

“Some people function quite well in the warmer weather, but then you have the trip, slip fall accidents that can happen with inclement cold and snowy weather,” Gilbert said. “People should exercise care and caution, especially if they are in a vulnerable position.”

Anybody can get hurt in wintry circumstances, he added.

“There is no age limit on injury,” Gilbert said, adding people should exercise care and caution, especially if they are in a vulnerable position.

“Ask for help. Leverage your friends and community. If you don’t need to do, don’t risk it. Wait until the appropriate time or the appropriate help can come to give you a hand.”

imcinroy@postmedia.com