Woodrow French, mayor of Conception Bay South. - 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.”