A rash of collisions that has led to lengthy waiting lists at Saskatoon auto body shops could be caused by the amount of snow that has fallen, says a senior climatologist with Environment Canada. 

'Our speeds are increased and so therefore we see more and more accidents.' - David Phillips, senior climatologist at Environment Canada

It hasn't snowed much, David Phillips said, but the number of snowfall days is significant. Parts of Saskatchewan have seen 1/3 less snow than last year, but it has snowed 17 days in November and December. That's one more snowfall day than last year.

When you get a large snowfall, Phillips said, people tend to slow down and drive with caution.

"Now take the other kind of scenario," he said. "You just get a little bit of snow, a skiff of snow — one cm here, two cm there — we drive at summer speeds. It's like there's no risk, you know, we just see a little skiff, a dusting of snow. Our speeds are increased and so therefore we see more and more accidents. So sometimes we need to be reminded of the season we're in and big dumps of snow do that." 

The Saskatoon police traffic unit said they have seen a four per cent increase in collisions since last year. As of December 19, there were 500 more collisions than there were at the same time last year.

Phillips also said the cold air would cause more black ice on the surface of streets. The City of Saskatoon has been reminding drivers to slow down because the extreme cold can lead to icy road conditions, especially at temperatures when sand and salt doesn't stick.

Hundreds of people on auto body shop waiting list

Val Welygan is seeing the results, whether the weather is causing the collisions or not. The co-owner of Novakoski Quality Collision is booked up for a few weeks. 

"It would be in the hundreds of people and most shops we talked to -- all other body shops -- most shops are in the hundreds of people waiting to get into their businesses," she said, adding that her shop can get through 35 cars per week. 

"Our guys work really hard, long hours, trying to get everybody back on the road as soon as possible" 

Doug Giordano, manager at Maaco Collision Repair and Auto Painting, said his crew plans to work through the Christmas holidays to manage the demand for auto body work.

"I love it," Giordano said. "I look outside, this morning it was snowing, I am smiling. I hear a car accident and it puts a smile on my face. I know it shouldn't but it does."

Debra Newnham said she expects to wait at least five weeks for parts for her banged-up Mitsubishi. She hit a curb to avoid smashing into a car on icy roads earlier this month.

"There's nothing I could have changed," Newnham said. "Icy conditions are icy conditions. And it is not like I didn't see it happening. My quickest reaction was to try and avoid the rear end."