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Home > Passenger Vehicles > Road Safety > Winter Road Safety > Terminology for Winter Road Conditions

Button - Terminology for winter road conditions. First introduced by the ministère des Transports in 1963, road condition information was immediately well-received. Over the years, dissemination of information has steadily improved with advancements in technology.

Since the 2012–2013 winter season, the Ministère has been using simplified terminology on Québec 511. This terminology describes roadway and visibility conditions separately to provide road users with more detailed information to help them travel safely in winter.

Terminology and Definitions

Below are the terms that were tested with road users and retained by the Ministère for use on Québec 511. The goal is to allow users to make informed decisions about winter driving hazards. After consulting a variety of sources of information on weather, roadway and visibility conditions, drivers will be able to adapt their driving accordingly.

This terminology will also allow departmental communications staff and the media to provide all road users with accurate information on winter road conditions.

Roadway Conditions

Bare and dry

Roadway Conditions : bare and dry.

All wheels of a vehicle are on a bare and dry surface over an important part of a given road segment.

Bare and wet

Roadway conditions : bare and wet.

All wheels of a vehicle are on a bare and wet surface over an important part of a given road segment.

Partly snow covered

Roadway conditions : partly snow covered.

All wheels of a vehicle are on a snow-covered surface over an important part of a given road segment.

Partly snow packed

Roadway conditions : partly snow packed.

All wheels of a vehicle are on a snow-packed surface over an important part of a given road segment.

Partly ice covered

Roadway conditions : partly ice covered.

The wheels on one side of a vehicle are on an ice-covered surface over an important part of a given road segment, while the wheels on the other side of the vehicle are on a bare surface.

Snow covered

Roadway conditions : snow covered.

All wheels of a vehicle are on a snow-covered surface over an important part of a given road segment.

 Snow packed

Roadway conditions : snow packed.

All wheels of a vehicle are on a snow-packed surface over an important part of a given road segment.

Ice covered

Roadway conditions : ice covered.

All wheels of a vehicle are on an ice-covered surface over an important part of a given road segment.

 Closed

Conditions de la chaussée : fermée.

The given road segment is closed.

Snowdrifts

Regardless of road conditions, snowdrifts may accumulate across the lanes of a given road segment. When snowdrifts develop on a portion or across the entire width of one or more lanes, comments indicate that there are snowdrifts.

Visibility conditions

Driving conditions are always impacted by visibility. Three visibility conditions are reported:

Good
Fair
Poor

Snowfall, mist rising off of a watercourse, fog and blowing snow can reduce visibility. These visibility-reducing elements influence the conditions that are reported to drivers.

Good visibility

Visibility is more than 500 m over the entire given road segment.

Fair visibility

Visibility is between 250 m and 500 m in specific areas or over a large portion of a given road segment.

Poor visibility

Visibility is less than 250 m in specific areas or over a large portion of a given road segment.

Colour System Used.

Three colours are used to indicate roadway and visibility conditions for each road segment for which conditions are reported on the Québec 511 website of the ministère des Transports.

These three colours were chosen particularly because they can be distinguished by people suffering from colour-blindness. Two of the colours (black and white) are colours that road users are accustomed to seeing in the wintertime. In winter, bare roadways are black, so black was chosen to represent bare roadway conditions. Likewise, white was chosen to represent covered or packed roadway conditions, because roadways are white when covered or packed with snow or ice. After assessing the range of colours that colour-blind people can distinguish, yellow was chosen to represent roadways that are partly covered.

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