Navigating the slippery slope

VicPD CRASH Team demonstrates challenges of stopping in snow and ice

Cst. Trevor Stephen

Cst. Trevor Stephen

The tires of Const. Neil Lundin’s moving car lock in place as he engages the breaking system. The vehicle goes into a 10-metre skid over the ice and snow covered asphalt in the Royal Athletic Park parking lot.

The member of the Victoria Police Department CRASH Team is demonstrating that even at the low speed of 35 kilometres an hour, it can take precious seconds to stop.

“It’s amazing, let’s say (at) 20 kilometres an hour, how far you slide,” says Lundin, a collision analysis reconstructionist and court-appointed expert witness. “If you think at 50 kilometres an hour someone is tailgating you and you have to stop in this (snow), you’re going to (get) hit.”

The CRASH Team hosted a demonstration Tuesday, serving as a reminder that caution is in order, especially when the weather turns.

The 31-year police veteran is one of a two-man team that analyzes and reconstructs serious traffic accidents which result in serious injury or death, in Victoria and Esquimalt.

To demonstrate the physics involved in driving over wet snow and slippery surfaces, Lundin’s colleague Const. Trevor Stephen tugs a drag sled in the parking lot.

Stephen pulls the 17-kilogram weight, used at major collisions including hit and runs, to gauge how slippery road conditions are.

This snowy day, officers don’t need the device to know how dicey driving conditions are.

Though busy, Lundin says the team has investigated fewer traffic-related fatalities over the past year-and-a-half.

About five years ago, they investigated a whopping eight fatalities – “a bad year for Victoria,” he says, noting the average is two or three.

He and Stephen expect to be busy with the snowy conditions, their year-round worry is aggressive and impaired drivers.

Improved vehicle technologies are saving lives, Lundin says, but added that drivers need to be more conscious about their behaviour behind the wheel.

“Aggressive drivers are going to pay dearly on a day like today,” he says, blinking the snow from his eyes. “They’ll be smashing into the back of people, sliding through stop signs, traffic lights.”