Swedish rally superstar Eric Carlsson once told me that the only time he was ever frightened in a car was when he hit a whiteout.
His theory was that if he could see, he could figure a way out of anything, numerous photos of his wrecked steeds notwithstanding! The best one shows him sitting on the underside of his upside-down Saab, awaiting the service crew. Not for nothing was his nickname “On the Roof”.
But I know where he’s coming from with respect to visibility.
Lose your brakes, you can still try to pick which tree you’re going to hit.
Lose your steering, you can at least brace yourself.
Lose your visibility, and you’re a curling stone.
This is why I rant against rear seat headrests which block your rearward view, against windshield pillars that are too thick to see around, against people who don't clean their windshield and all windows of snow, or who hang religious talismans, CDs, baby shoes, Yosemite Sam deodorizers, anything at all, from the rear-view mirror.
Came across another visibility issue the other day. I was pulling out of a side-street, and couldn’t see what was coming because of a massive Matterhorn of snow which someone – the city; the residents; I don’t know - had left there.
I was in too much of a hurry trying to get to the airport to take a decent photo, but from this one I think you can, you should pardon the expression, get my drift.
Didn’t really matter how far I stuck the nose of my vehicle out – I simply couldn’t see what was or might have been coming from my left.
I could see quite a bit farther down the road behind the snow bank, so I backed up and waited until there were no cars coming in that view, left what I hoped was a sufficient amount of time for that ‘hole’ in the traffic to come to me, and dove out.
I was lucky.
In retrospect, I don’t know what else I could have done. I have been wondering if it might have been better to turn right, then find a safer intersection down the road to turn around.
But if someone were coming, that would have tossed me directly into their path heading in the same direction, and a collision would have been unavoidable.
By making the left, I was risking a tee-bone crash, one of the hardest types for a car to survive.
But I figured I’d only be in that extremely vulnerable position for a very brief amount of time, and that overall, it was my best bet.
All’s well that ends well, but it pointed out a serious winter traffic danger that I had never really considered before.
I mentioned this to some of my Montreal-based colleagues, and they just nodded knowingly. Do they have a solution?
“Nope. Just take your chances,” was the only answer they could offer.
I know our road plowing crews do yeoman work, and the higher-than-usual degree of global warming this winter has made their jobs even more difficult.
I would love to hear from some of them to see if lack of visibility from the snow banks they leave behind is something that’s even on their metaphorical radar screens.
Meanwhile, watch out for this hazard, and try to avoid intersections that simply don't allow you enter them safely.