The MUHC warns pedestrians and motorists of the dangers of slippery weather conditions


Winter weather is here and with it come a host of unpleasant and dangerous conditions: slippery roads and sidewalks, strong winds, freezing temperatures. Slips and falls on icy surfaces can lead to serious broken and fractured bones that could result in traumatic injuries that can leave one with a long term disability.

Each year, the MUHC treats about 1600 trauma patients, of which approximately 50% (800 patients) of these are admitted because of an unintentional fall resulting in broken hips, bones, and skull fractures. Nancy Tze, administrative head of the MUHC Adult Trauma Program, offers the following advice on how to prevent falls when it is slippery:

  • Wear the proper foot gear, shoes or boots that provide traction on snow and ice
  • Consider using an ice pick at the end of your cane. The sharp ice pick will give you added grip on slippery surfaces. Cane picks will be slippery on hard surfaces so be sure to flip it back as you get indoors. Remember to replace rubber tips on your cane before it gets too worn.
  • Walk slowly and never run on icy surfaces
  • Use handrails when they are available
  • Keep entranceways, walkways, stairs and driveways clear of ice and snow.
  • Plan ahead; give yourself sufficient time and plan your route
  • Walk in designated walkways as much as possible.

Another 25% (200) of trauma patients are admitted following a motor vehicle crash, as drivers, passengers, or pedestrians. As winter approaches, motorists can stay safe using these tips:

  • Be aware and be cautious. Weather conditions can change quickly.
  • Slow down. Posted speed limits reflect ideal conditions, not wet or snowy conditions.
  • Keep a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. On slippery road surfaces, double the 2 second rule

    The “2 second rule”

    This simple rule applies at any speed and is easy to use. Here’s how.

    Watch the vehicle in front of you pass an object at the side of the road such as a power pole, tree or sign. As it passes the object, start counting “one thousand and one, one thousand and two”. If you pass the object you picked out before you finish saying all the words, you are following too closely. Slow down, pick another roadside object and repeat the words again to make sure that you have increased your following distance.

  • Avoid sudden turns of the steering wheel, and sudden braking and accelerating that could cause a skid
  • Avoid situations where you may have to brake suddenly on a slippery surface
  • See and be seen. Always clear ice and snow from all vehicle windows to maximize visibility, and turn on your vehicle’s full lighting system when blowing snow and white outs impair your visibility
  • Make sure you know how to use your braking system in all weather and road conditions.
  • Allow more time to get to your destination. Extra time is required to negotiate snow-covered roads.
  • Your vehicle’s tire treads should be in good condition and you should always have plenty of windshield washer fluid to assist with visibility.

Tze adds that “Many of these types of injuries can be prevented by using common sense. Both motorists and pedestrians must exercise caution by recognizing hazardous conditions and being more alert when weather conditions are slippery and dangerous. It is best to limit going outside if at all possible.”

The MUHC is a comprehensive academic health institution with an international reputation for excellence in clinical programs, research and teaching. The MUHC is a merger of five teaching hospitals affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University, the Montreal Children's, Montreal General, Royal Victoria, and Montreal Neurological Hospitals, as well as the Montreal Chest Institute. Building on the tradition of medical leadership of the founding hospitals, the goal of the MUHC is to provide patient care based on the most advanced knowledge in the health care field, and to contribute to the development of new knowledge.

Contact Information

Seeta Ramdass
McGill University Health Centre
Office Phone: 
(514) 843-1560