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West Island woman feels lucky to be alive, calls on drivers to de-ice cars, trucks

Police warn motorists to clear vehicles of ice and snow
WATCH: Quebec provincial police are warning drivers to remove all snow and ice from their vehicles before heading out. Failure to do so can be dangerous and can result in a fine.

Kirkland resident Karen Cliffe is recovering from an incident she fears could have cost her her life.

She was driving on Highway 40 near Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue on Friday when ice flew off a tractor-trailer ahead of her, smashing through her windshield.

She suffered several cuts to her face, a mild concussion and is on now a mission to warn others about the dangers of driving with an ice-covered car or truck.

Karen Cliffe’s windshield after being hit by ice. Courtesy Karen Cliffe
Karen Cliffe’s windshield after being hit by ice. Courtesy Karen Cliffe. Karen Cliffe

“I was about seven cars back from an 18-wheeler (truck), I saw a lot of snow coming off his roof, I looked up and saw a big piece of ice spiraling downwards,” said Cliffe.

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“There was glass all over, big chunks, I was in shock. I was traumatized.”

Cliff managed to pull-over and call 911.

“I could have lost control, glass kept breaking and flying onto me until I stopped the car,” she said.

The mother of two was rushed to the Lakeshore General Hospital after the incident and claims doctors told her she is lucky to be alive.

“The doctor said, ‘go home and celebrate,'” said Cliffe. “It could have killed me and maybe others if I had lost control.”

READ MORE: Canada Post driver seriously injured after ice smashes through windshield at Massey Tunnel

Now, she wants to warn people about the importance of cleaning their vehicles, especially in the case of trucks.

“You can’t see the snow and ice on a tractor-trailer,” she said. “There should be a mandatory check before trucks leave their lot.”

Cliffe filed a police report and says police haven’t contacted her since the incident.

The Sureté du Québec (SQ) confirms an incident took place at 6 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 17, in the westbound lane on Highway 40 near Senneville.

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READ MORE: Quebec police arrest 844 drivers for impaired driving over the 2019 holidays

Officers aren’t actively investigating in this case and they likely won’t take measures to attempt to track down the truck in question, since there were no serious injuries. But under the law, all drivers have the obligation to clear their vehicles from any ice, snow or material that could detach and cause a collision.

“People can be fined if they don’t clean their vehicle or remove any ice or snow, anything that can constitute a danger for any road user,” said Sgt. Stéphane Tremblay.

“The minimum fine for this is $60 plus the fees so it goes well over $100,” he said.

Police officers have the right to pull over drivers and force them to clear the snow or ice before they’re allowed back on the road.

In 2019, the SQ fined 429 Quebec drivers for failing to clean their headlights, lights, reflectors, windshield or windows, as stipulated in article 281.1 of the highway safety code. Another 540 people were fined under article 498.1 for driving a vehicle covered with snow, ice or any other matter that could cause an accident.

Cliffe is calling on all drivers to be careful, even though she admits in her case, it would have been impossible to avoid.

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“Maybe this is happening more because of the change in temperature,” she said. “I would tell parents to put their children in the back seat, even older children since they’re safer there.”

Cliffe was already coincidentally on a mission to reduce ice-related injuries.

She runs a group called “salting for seniors” where she provides ice-melting salt and volunteers to help clear entrances for vulnerable seniors to help them venture out of their homes in the winter.

She wants people to know that even though she’ll be out of commission over the coming weeks as she recovers, some of her neighbours have offered to step in and help tackle the ice for those who can’t.

“I’ll still provide the salt,” she said — her kind neighbour will provide the labour.