Q&A - Can't See The Lane Markings, do I Follow the Tracks?
QUESTION: Just wondering....when the roads are snow covered and you can't see the painted lines but there are tracks worn in the snow and are not within the 'lanes' what are ther legal responsibilities and duties especially if one is in an accident because one person is in the 'lane' and the other is in the worn tracks.
ANSWER: If it is not possible to see the lines at all, within reason it is probably a good idea to follow the tracks already made by traffic that has preceeded you. There will probably be better traction and reasonable lane separation.
At minimum, all drivers are required to stay on their half of the roadway:
Driver on right
150 (1) The driver of a vehicle must confine the course of the vehicle to the right hand half of the roadway if the roadway is of sufficient width and it is practicable to do so, except
(a) when overtaking and passing a vehicle proceeding in the same direction,
(b) when the right hand half of the roadway is closed to traffic while under construction or repair,
(c) on a highway designated and marked by signs for one way traffic,
(d) if necessary when operating snow removing equipment, or
(i) the movement of a vehicle, or combination of vehicles, is permitted by and is done in conformity with the terms of the oversize permit issued under the Commercial Transport Act, and
(ii) the width of a vehicle, or combination of vehicles, or the width of a load on the vehicle makes the operation of the vehicle or combination of vehicles on the right hand half of the roadway unsafe.
(2) The driver of a vehicle proceeding at less than normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing must drive the vehicle in the right hand lane then available for traffic, or as closely as practicable to the right hand curb or edge of the roadway, except when overtaking and passing a vehicle proceeding in the same direction, or when preparing for a left hand turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
(3) The driver of a vehicle passing around a rotary traffic island must drive the vehicle to the right of the island.
There is also the offences of driving without due care or without reasonable consideration for others that would apply as well:
Careless driving prohibited
144 (1) A person must not drive a motor vehicle on a highway
(a) without due care and attention,
(b) without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway, or
(c) at a speed that is excessive relative to the road, traffic, visibility or weather conditions.
(2) A person who contravenes subsection (1) (a) or (b) is liable on conviction to a fine of not less than $100 and, subject to this minimum fine, section 4 of the Offence Act applies.
If you do have some idea of where the lines are because they have become visible in places it could have bearing on deciding fault if a collision were to occur as you have an obligation to obey them. Liabiliy would be a good question for a lawyer rather than a traffic cop.
I was able to find some case law in Wellington v Hopkins where Justice Burnyeat observes:
Where a highway is snow-covered and there are two, clearly defined, sets of tire tracks, in opposite directions, a driver in Ryall's position is entitled to follow the tire tracks on his side of the road and expect that a driver following the tracks on the other side of the road will not move over into the other set of tracks, even though a part of these may be over the obscured yellow line, unless conditions are such that it is safe to do so. … In these circumstances, I believe this Court should treat the accident scene as though it were a two-lane highway. hence, whether or not Ryall's vehicle was over the obscured yellow line is irrelevant.