After photos of a cruiser covered in snow were widely circulated on social media, Kingston Police have responded to the public outcry.
The photos were posted on Facebook on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019, and show a Kingston Police vehicle with snow on the roof, side windows, bumper, and part of the rear window. Some of the vehicle’s lights and licences plate appear to be obscured by the snow in the photos, which appear to have been taken at the intersection of Princess Street and Portsmouth Avenue. According to the original poster, the photos were taken the same day they were posted.
According to Const. Ash Gutheinz, media relations officer for Kingston Police, the cruiser in question is not breaking any laws.
“The exact circumstances involving this particular cruiser are unknown, however this does not constitute an offence under the Highway Traffic Act,” Gutheinz said in an email to Kingstonist.
“The Highway Traffic Act indicates that a motor vehicle that is equipped with a mirror or mirrors securely attached to the motor vehicle and placed in such a position and maintained in such a condition as to afford the driver, otherwise than through the rear window, a clearly-reflected view of the roadway in the rear or of any vehicle approaching from the rear is allowable.”
While that may be true, Section 13.2 of the Highway Traffic Act states “every number plate shall be kept free from dirt and obstruction and shall be affixed so that the entire number plate, including the numbers, is plainly visible at all times.”
The Highway Traffic Act applies to all public roadways in the province. The province doesn’t specifically ban driving with snow on a vehicle, but, should snow or ice on a vehicle fall off and become a factor in a collision, the driver of the vehicle with the snow or ice accumulated could be found to be at fault.
The section of the Highway Traffic Act Gutheinz referred to is Section 74, which refers to drivers needing to be able to see clearly out of the front, front side, and rear windows, with an exception for rear windows if the driver can see with mirrors.
As Kingstonist reported earlier this year, the Ontario Provincial Police actively patrol to ensure drivers are clearing snow from their cars during the winter. According to Inspector Mike Francis, it is up to police to decide what being able to see “clearly” out of a window means.
“It doesn’t mean scraping a small space in your windshield,” Francis said in January of 2019.
Gutheinz said Kingston Police do encourage motorists to clear snow and ice from their vehicles.
“Kingston Police would recommend that it is always best practice for drivers to clear all of the windows of their vehicles so as to avoid any view obstructions whatsoever and therefore decrease the potential of any roadway safety concerns,” he said.
Editorial note: An earlier version of this article stated that Bill 183 amended the Highway Traffic Act in 2014 to include a section regarding the accumulation of ice and snow on vehicles. This was an error. Bill 183 died in 2014 when the legislature was dissolved for a regularly scheduled provincial election.