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Rules of the Road

Four excellent reasons to hate driving in the winter Add to ...

There are plenty of reasons to hate winter in Canada.

There's the cold, the snow, the Grand Canyonesque potholes, and, worst of all, those awful tomatoes that have the consistency of damp cardboard and less taste than Rob Ford’s tailor.

Maybe that explains why there are so many rude drivers out there during the winter. Maybe they’re all so cranky and out of sorts that they lose all perspective, all common sense and most of their intelligence.

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Face it, although we live in a country of ice and snow, most of those who take steering wheel in hand during winter drive as if they’d just arrived on the 4 p.m. flight from Bora Bora. And while you might suspect that most of them are the same inconsiderate, self-centred slobs who make life on the roads hell the rest of the year, it’s a proven fact that the number of rude drivers rises in reverse proportion to the temperature.

The colder it is and the more treacherous the conditions, the more morons there are on the roads. As evidence, I cite a 2010 survey by the University of Western Newfoundland, Department of Sociology and Bovine Studies, that showed 84 per cent of Canadians asked to name the biggest winter driving hazard replied “all those other morons on the road.” The remaining 38 per cent did not understand the question.

If you need more proof than a numerically suspect opinion survey conducted by a fictitious university, here is anecdotal evidence of the lack of courtesy exhibited on our roads, collected over decades behind the wheel. Following is a list of the top offenders, rated in order of those most likely to be assigned a special room in hell.

The Missile Launcher: You can spot these drivers the second they pull out of their driveways with a loonie-sized clearing scraped out of the inch-thick frost on their windshields, an equally tiny porthole on their rear window and about a foot of snow and ice sitting on the roof, like icing on a giant mobile cake. That's a good sign to keep your distance – say the next province – because that cake’s inevitably going to fly off and become a snowy Scud missile. The Canadian Automobile Association says this is the No. 1 driver complaint in winter, more even than the tomatoes.

The AWD SUV SOB: This is the most abominable creature on the road, a driver who actually believes those commercials that show SUVs flying across mountain streams, bursting through snow banks, racing on icy lakes and leaping tall buildings in a single bound. In his undying belief that the best way to survive bad conditions is to get through them quickly, he loves to tailgate and has been known to get close enough to other bumpers that he can actually tell what radio station the occupants are listening to. He may even suggest changing stations.

The Slip-Sliding Creepy Crawler: Another victim of advertising, this driver is completely unaware that all-season tires are in fact designed for all seasons – in Costa Rica. As a result, the crawler pulls out in front of other cars, wheels spinning madly and rear-end fishtailing, all the while complaining that everyone else is driving faster than Paul Tracy. He then holds up traffic by going 30 km/h below the limit while sliding just enough to cover all available lanes.

The Splash and Dasher: These are the drivers whose peripheral vision apparently prevents them from seeing anything smaller than a snowplow. That can be the only plausible explanation for why they hit puddles at full throttle, sending up a wave only slightly smaller than a tsunami and drenching any pedestrian within a 100-square-metre area. The other explanation is that they’re involved in a splashers’ league that gives them points for the number of pedestrians they can soak each day with a double bonus for anyone using a walker. Assuming most fall into the former category, a little attention to those on foot combined with a willingness to slow down from time to time will drastically reduce this bit of callous driving.

If you have questions about driving or car maintenance, please contact our experts at globedrive@globeandmail.com.

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