'It could've gone right through my head': Quebec woman injured by flying ice on highway

Karen Cliffe was driving along Highway 40 Friday, on her way to pick her daughter up from school in the West Island. As she drove in rush hour traffic, she happened to notice snow blowing off the roof of a truck five cars ahead of her.

All of a sudden, she was covered in ice and glass — and felt a sharp pain in her face.

"The windshield was still breaking as I was driving. There were still little pieces that were shattering and coming in the car so by the time I got off, there was not much windshield left," Cliffe told CBC Montreal's Daybreak Wednesday morning.

A chunk of ice had come flying off the truck ahead of her, crashing through her windshield. She was in complete shock but still in the middle of traffic. She realized she needed to think fast.

"I tried to get off the highway. It's a bit of a blur," said Cliffe.

"I remember looking to the right, making sure there was nothing beside me and then veering as fast as I could to get off the road."

After stopping her car, Cliffe sat there in shock. She remembers crying and hyperventilating, unsure what to do next. She eventually called for an ambulance.

Along with her damaged car, she was left with several scratches and bruises across her face and a minor concussion.

"The good thing is it was probably the flat part [that hit me]. The doctor was saying that if it had been jagged, it could've gone right through my head," Cliffe said.

Karen Cliffe/Facebook
Karen Cliffe/Facebook

Pierre-Olivier Fortin, a spokesperson for CAA-Quebec, said this isn't an isolated incident.

This month alone, there have been several similar incidents across the country.

Earlier this week, a man driving west of Ottawa was injured after a chunk of ice flew off a nearby car and went through his windshield.

On Tuesday, a thick chunk of ice flew off a transport truck and slammed into a double-decker bus in Mississauga, Ont. No one was injured in that incident but the vehicle's windshield was damaged.

"You would think that it's common sense to remove snow and ice from your car, but we see now and then people forgetting that and it's unfortunate because really it's a road safety issue," said Fortin.

In 2018, the provincial government updated Quebec's Highway Safety Code to include a section on snow removal.

According to that new regulation, "no person may drive a vehicle covered with snow, ice or any other matter that may detach from the vehicle."

Should the driver fail to clear their car of snow or ice, they can be fined. When it comes to trucks, the responsibility to clean the vehicle is split between the client, the company and the driver.

There are several ways drivers can remove ice from heavy trucks, according to Transports Québec's website: mechanical stations, special stations equipped with ladders or staircases, as well as brooms made specifically to reach the roof of the vehicle.

As for regular cars, Fortin recommends patience when it comes to removing thick layers of ice.

"If you have a very thick layer of ice covering your car, it may be a good idea to heat up your car before starting to remove it," said Fortin.

"A strong arm and a scraper is going to do the job."

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