Driving Safe Through the Winter


With the extreme cold temperatures that we have received this past month, I wanted to take a moment to share with residents some important information regarding safe driving in the wintertime.


While it is common knowledge that snowy weather can make any drive more dangerous and should prompt vehicles to proceed with caution when stopping, switching lanes, or making turns, it is important to note that even if the weather conditions and roads may seem clear, the dangerous potential of frost and black ice may still be present.


When the air warms suddenly, after a prolonged cold spell that has left the surface well below freezing, the result can be localized frost or black ice. The prime time for the development of this frost/ice is between sunset and sunrise when temperatures are typically the coldest. The most common locations this occurs are shaded or tree covered parts of roadways due to lack of sunshine and because of their ability to freeze quickly. Bridges and overpasses are also prime locations.


In cases such as this, the City will often spread sand instead of salt as salt is not effective below -18 degrees Celsius.


Some may ask if the truck operators are able to add additional abrasive to road areas that may be deemed to freeze quickly. For example near shaded areas or under bridges. There is a set rate in the on board computer of the truck for application of sand in this scenario. The operator has the ability to hit a ‘blast button’ which will double the application rate however this is typically used on hills, curves and intersections where breaking is required – the sand is spread on a wider pattern covering most of the lane of travel. Depending on the area commuter, traffic can wear off the sand from the surface depending on traffic volumes.


It is also worthwhile to note that highways including Highway 417 are not maintained by the City Of Ottawa; this is the responsibility of the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario and their contractors.


Should you be concerned or notice roadways that appear icy or need winter maintenance please contact 311 to report this and a City truck can be deployed to review and attend to the situation.