Driving patterns not evolving with increased traffic

Josh Pennell
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Woodrow French - Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram

The manager of traffic safety with Safety Services Newfoundland and Labrador says driving practices haven’t evolved with a changing population in this province.

“A lot of people just haven’t kept up with changes in traffic patterns,” says Lloyd Hobbs.

A fatal accident on the C.B.S. Bypass Road Tuesday had Conception Bay South Mayor Woodrow French questioning whether highway access to his town needed to be improved. Hobbs says that roads are an issue, but the lack of respect for the roads shouldn’t be misjudged, either.

“A lot of people don’t adhere to the rules of the road or don’t know the rules of the road or don’t care about the rules of the road or whatever the reason is,” he says. “Generally, we don’t have a healthy respect for driving.”

One of the issues with drivers is merging, according to Hobbs, and the bypass road in C.B.S. is an example where there are several places for traffic to merge. Hobbs had an experience last week where he watched a driver attempt to merge onto the road in that area without looking and at the last minute had to pull back to the right in order to avoid hitting traffic.

French agrees that education is certainly part of the solution.

“I’ve been driving for a long time. I’ve never, ever seen anything on how to merge,” he says.

Hobbs says understanding what to do in heavy traffic situations is of vital importance, especially considering that attempts to deal with congested roads haven’t worked.

“We’ve put in the Outer Ring Road. We’ve put in the Harbour Arterial Road. We’ve put in the Conception Bay South Bypass Road. We’ve put in the Torbay access road — all to try to spread out the traffic and yet it’s still bumper to bumper.”

One thing all of these new roads have in common is that they’re highways, but unlike the TCH, they’re high traffic highways with a lot of vehicles exiting and merging and Hobbs says people in this province haven’t necessarily realized the differences between the two.

“I think people have taken highway driving for granted and they don’t recognize that highway driving in an urban centre is different than highway driving in a rural centre.”

While French agrees driving patterns have something to do with the problem, road design is a culprit, as well.

“It’s time to sit down and have a discussion with the experts that work for (the Department of) Transportation and talk about highway design and safety,” he says. “To me, it seems that we’re having a lot of accidents on the CBS bypass and a lot of the accidents are serious or fatal.”

French, who works in health and safety, says that increase should trigger a response. The roads leading to his community were designed years ago when traffic realities were much different than today, he adds.

 ”You can’t just build a highway and leave it for forever and a day.”

With a combination of education and structural changes likely required, French tossed out the idea of doing more education in safe and proper driving habits while waiting for the highways to be improved.

Hobbs adds that, along with education, common courtesy can go a long way, as well.

“If people treated other drivers as they would like to be treated themselves, they would be a lot more courteous on the roadway.”


Organizations: CBS

Geographic location: Conception Bay, C.B.S. Bypass Road, Outer Ring Road Harbour Arterial Road Torbay

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Recent comments

  • Huck
    June 28, 2013 - 01:32

    The sad thing is that as the Avalon continues to prosper, the rest of the province is slipping down the tubes. Not to lay the blame on one particular crowd, but more and more people are moving to the big city for work, and many of them bring questionable driving habits with them. If they were only sub par drivers in an area with 50 cars, many are totally baffled by city traffic. Between that and the bad drivers that were already here, along with the fact that everyone is in one heck of a hurry makes for many more accidents yet to come.

  • J
    June 27, 2013 - 23:13

    I'm sorry, French don't know what he is taking about. I am originally from Newfoundland, currently live in Newfoundland and have lived, worked and driven on several continents. Newfoundlanders are some of the worst drivers I have every seen. I don't even think that they know what a 'blind spot' is, have no idea what those shiny relfective devices are on the doors and centre windshield and do what I like to call the 'Newfoundland shuffle' - this is where they drive in the right lane of a four lane lane highway (dual carriageway) and, I really believe, purposely wait til a vehicle is about to overtake them and the car in front of them - just as the vehicle approaches they casually shift into the left lane with no turn signal and drive the spend of the car that was in front of them thus causing the overtaking car to slam on the brakes. They do this completely on purpose - is it an Insurance ploy?? I would really like to now because there can't be that many stupid people on the road. Another thing I've noticed is that most drivers are clueless or purposely placing themselves and other vehicles in danger - remember, it can really only be one or the other - They constantly tailgate, really close, at high rates of speed, yet, will not pass given the opportunity.

  • Denis
    June 27, 2013 - 22:07

    One problem may be a lack of signage. On the mainland of Canada and in the U.S. there is often reminder after reminder that you (the driver) are approaching a certain important exit or dangerous intersection, etc. On the major roads in the Fort McMurray there are even blinking amber lights to indicate that you are nearing a traffic light (amber-green-red) where the green is 'decaying'. Drivers are given plenty of prior warning of any change in the lanes ahead. Our roads, in contrast, are nothing but guesswork, where lanes are often unmarked by paint....where a stranger would be completely lost due to lack of directional signs. Accidents happen when drivers have to do too much guesswork to do. They're probably speeding in the meantime, lessening their reaction times. By the way, Newfoundlanders can't merge because they're too ((insert your pick)) to look over their shoulders.

  • Steve
    June 27, 2013 - 20:53

    Perhaps it would be helpful if there was an explanation given here of the proper, safe and lawful way drivers are to merge onto a highway.

  • DefensiveDriving
    June 27, 2013 - 19:50


  • Tony CBS
    June 27, 2013 - 18:29

    Traffic problems in Newfoundland? Some people need to take a drive on the 401, or DVP, in Toronto (any time of the day), to know what real driving problems are about. ONtario commutes can take 2-4 hours out of your day, every day. As I see it, there are perhaps 30 minutes in the morning and afternoon here in St. Johns were traffic is at a halt on routes like Kenmount Road, and Prince Phillip Drive. If you can arrive after 9 AM, or before 8 AM, then you'll avoid any major traffic. Most taffic snarls I see in the city are the results of poor drivng habits that plague the city's drivers. Yakking on the phone, cutting people off, stopping to let pedestrians cross in the middle of nowhere, are among the few I see too often. Having lived in Montreal, Toronto, Halifax and England, I have to rate Newfoundland drivers among the worst I have ever seen. To say there is traffic congestion is ridiculous.

  • Tony CBS
    June 27, 2013 - 18:12

    Driving tests in Canada are a sham. I understand, here St. Johns/Mt Pearl, that you don't even do the test on a real road. More of a parking lot with lines. If you want better drivers, you have to give them better training, and make the privilege of having a license mean a lot more than the convenience of your teenager driving themselves to activites. European driving tests are as tough as a university course and people frequently fail their first and 2nd tests. You'd have to be a candidate for worst driver to fail your drivers test in Canada. It's ridiculously easy.

  • Lauren
    June 27, 2013 - 16:57

    Well Mr. French, it was you and the Town Council in CBS that approved a two-way two lane bipass road through CBS. No median. No shoulder to pull over on. No space for bikers or pedestrians. First you need to examine the engineering of such projects before you criticize drivers.

    • PETER
      June 28, 2013 - 12:17

      At Lauren, once again someone makes a statement without knowing the facts. The Town of CBS, and especially Mr. French's Council, did not approve this road. First it was built long before this council came into place, many, many years before. Second, it was the province, not CBS that built this road, not sure where you get your information Lauren, but please check your facts. The big problem is drivers, nothing more, when the road was built it was more than adequate. It still would be if people drove properly with attention to the rules and used curtesy.

  • Whaddaya At
    June 27, 2013 - 16:48

    I was driving in the right hand lane on the Harbour Arterial, heading East, on June 26, when a numbnuts driver merged into my lane, without slowing down, leaving me nowhere to go because there was traffic in the passing lane to my left. I had to brake hard to avoid a collision. Merging into traffic is only one of many rules of the road so many drivers in NL are clueless about. And, by the way, if you're in the slow lane, it's common courtesy to move to the passing lane, if you can, to allow a vehicle to merge. You don't own the bloody road, so smarten up.

  • willie
    June 27, 2013 - 15:11

    there is one GREAT BIG PROBLEM and it' s not merging and the likes it's CELL PHONE USE and not paying attention and speed just as simple as that. By the way i wouldn't want to be on the other end of a a TEXT message or PHONE call from a FAMILY member or a FRIEND if something happened to this person .For me it would be a hard thing to live with .PLEASE THINK ABOUT IT .

  • Ray Rose
    June 27, 2013 - 15:08

    Instead of just telling us that merging is a problem or that education in driving is necessary , then give some indication as to what drivers are actually doing wrong and ideas as to do it properly. Specific incidents and examples would be helpful. Encourage local media and all levels of government to assist in this regard. Injuries and life are at stake here.

  • Mommy
    June 27, 2013 - 15:05

    It's election time and French has a challenger for a change. He's grandstanding, pure and simple. Drivers are wild on that Manuels Access Road and 100kph is a joke.

  • Political Watcher
    June 27, 2013 - 14:43

    Just where does Woody get off on blaming others for problems he created; he and his Council are the ones who allowed development to go on with very little planning. While he is complaining and saying that is is Gov't issue to deal with he continues to worsen the problem. He and his Council are developing a large retail development on this road (increasing traffic), the are constructing a new arena on the road (increasing teafic), and are developing an Industrial park on this road (increased truck traffic) and yet he has the face to say it is someone elses problem. Woody is such a media hound that he doesn't think before he jumps in front of the camera or microphone. If it is Gov'ts problem then Gov't should place an immediate freeze on any further development on or around this road until the Town come up with a solution.

  • A
    June 27, 2013 - 14:20

    Hmm... CBS Bypass is two-way traffic going 90km/h (realistically 100km/h+) in opposite directions so any accident would likely be serious in nature. The cloverleaf where the Outer Ring and Harbour Arterial meet is a mess during morning rush hour where everyone trying to exit off the Manuals Access trying to turn into the offramp lane are met with those coming off the Outer Ring (westbound) onto the Harbour Arterial (southbound) creating a long line of cars from CBS on a daily basis. Topsail Rd through Paradise between Trails End and Kenmount is a nightmare on a good day (fix the timing for the lights! The lights at Carlisle Dr shouldn't be on timers, they should be on SENSORS (duh!) and when at the lights with the Outer Ring, why are the arrows to turn left onto the highway going on for three straight minutes in the middle of the night when even in the middle of the day there isn't three minutes worth of traffic ever waiting to get onto the highway? Boggles my mind to no end). Whatever, what do I know? I only drive a taxi seven days a week and don't have a clue what I'm talking about when it comes to idiotic light configurations and design problems regarding traffic and traffic flow.

  • sparky
    June 27, 2013 - 14:15

    I haven't driven all over this world but I have driven in a lot of major cites & the biggest problem I see here is: no one understands "keep right except to pass"! If I come up on a merge area,I can`t move to my left & let some driver merge onto the highway becase some GOOF is just driving along with-the-flow? KEEP RIGHT EXCEPT TO PASS! I ask a Police Officer about the charge & she told me it is based on common courtesy.

  • Leo P. Nolan
    June 27, 2013 - 14:13

    MERGE? Most drivers in NL don't understand this concept. Another is in double lane turning at intersections (keep to the inside or outside lane that you've turned from). The Allendale/Parkway intersection was the best example of stupidity of drivers. The merge there didn't work, neither did double lane turning. So what happened, they changed the intersections flow with stop lights. I'd hate to see them try traffic circles or rotary intersections. Some stund bys!

  • Calvin
    June 27, 2013 - 14:13

    Been saying this for years, every time someone's licence expires they should have to pass a road test in order to renew it. If they can't pass the road test it is off to driving school for every sorry excuse of a motorist in this province.

  • Joe it All
    June 27, 2013 - 14:03

    I agree with most of this article but don't just blame the driving pattern not evolving. That might account for some of the older drivers having problems but not the younger ones. Aren't they taught or tested properly any more? Also don't lump Torbay access with those other roads. It has two traffic lights along it plus the one at the start on Torbay Rd. It was supposed to be a bypass but got downgraded somewhere along the way. There are too many lights, it is not wide enough and some places seem to be abnormally high.

  • Flatrocker
    June 27, 2013 - 13:58

    Ahem! it ain't bumper to bumper on theTorbay Bypass Mr. French and it is ONLY bumper to bumper because of idiot drivers, not because the road needs to be redesigned, full stop.

  • Sean
    June 27, 2013 - 13:43

    It's got nothing to do with "driving patterns". The fact is that each time we add major road infrastructure (CBS bypass, for example), we make it easier for people to live further and further away from the City where they likely work, do business, go to post-secondary, etc. You get to have a lot of house and land for the money you pay, compared to in town, and naturally people want that. The bargain that people make is that the time involved to get to their destination in the City is not unreasonable. We subsidize that bargain with our tax dollars by building more and more roads and lanes of traffic for their commute. The growth will in those areas will continue as long as the bargain makes sense. If we stop building more road infrastructure, eventually the market will slow down for houses in CBS, Torbay, etc, and the incentive will then be for more dense, urban options in St. John's, which do not involve expensive road infrastructure to build and maintain. It appears that our current political trajectory involves continued investment in the suburban model, however.