When lake effect snow blanketed a portion of Ontario’s Highway 401 near Bowmanville reducing visibility and creating slick roads, what resulted was carnage that shut down the road for hours.
On January 7th, when this scribe was heading west from Toronto on the 401 to Detroit, drivers a few hundred kilometres behind were experiencing the first waves of heavy snowfall and fast deteriorating driving conditions east of Toronto.
Nearly a hundred vehicles were involved in pileups at various points between Newcastle, ON and Bowmanville. As authorities shut down the 401 in both directions, Canada’s busiest highway was ground to a standstill for nine hours on Saturday.
While some blame the unexpected snow squall for the collisions, the Ontario Provincial Police has a different opinion.
“The weather and the road conditions do not cause crashes. It’s driver error,” said OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt speaking with CTV News.
As the video above shows, many of the vehicles that can’t stop in time are travelling at speeds that far exceed their ability to stop. What results is cars, pickup trucks, tractor trailers all crashing into one another in a cacophony of squealing tires and crushing metal.
As Schmidt pointed out, many of the drivers involved in the crashes were travelling at speeds exceeding 80 - 90 kilometres per hour. Slippery roads, combined with very poor visibility from the blowing snow meant many drivers couldn’t see the stopped cars ahead of them until they were too close to avoid crashing into them.
Luckily for all, no one was killed in the collisions, but several people were taken to hospital for minor injuries.
Areas of southern Ontario saw snow squall warnings into Sunday, with some parts getting between 10 - 15 centimetres of snow. It seemed most drivers had learned their lesson as Saturday’s mishaps weren’t repeated on Sunday. Here’s hoping everyone remembers this the next time it snows.
Here's the full eyewitness video that was posted to YouTube: