Time for a little action

Russell Wangersky
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Another day, another wreck on the Outer Ring Road. This time, it was a westbound car crossing the median into the eastbound lane, and a meeting between a car and a couple of dump trucks.

The usual comments come to mind — speed, driver inattention, poor road conditions on a morning with a hard frost — but the fact is that accidents on that stretch of road are far, far too common.

Radio traffic

The Telegram’s newsroom is quiet at 7:30 a.m., with only a few people in, so it’s easy to hear the fire department scanner chattering away on the filing cabinet along

the back wall. And morning after morning, it’s the same chatter: a resigned-sounding fire captain on the radio from the Kenmount Station or the Kent’s Pond station, confirming that they are on their way to yet another accident on the Outer Ring. You see a few accidents — we hear about every one.

Even with massive guard-rail barricades on the worst stretch of all — from Paradise to Thorburn Road — there are constant wrecks and rollovers, cars hydroplaning in ruts and sailing off the road in one direction or the other. The centre guard-rails are proof of one thing: there’s already something odd about the Ring Road, if for no other reason than that it had to have the rail built, because cars kept being launched into the air and into opposing traffic. Highway design, after all, is not supposed to need air traffic control.

Still, guard rail or not, the accidents pile up.

If you’re even close to being a regular commuter, you can watch the scars on the shoulder pile up, week after week.

And winter isn’t even here yet — all we’ve really had is enough early-morning frost and black ice to remind us that we’re not driving on a Florida Interstate. Imagine the circus the first real snowfall is going to cause.

Why now?

Ask people what they think the most likely cause is, and you’ll hear exactly the same things — traffic speeds and bad driving habits.

Cars that tailgate or that cut in too close in front of traffic that they’re passing, leadfoots on their way in a huge rush, people who don’t seem to have any conception that the pavement might be in less than perfect shape.

But the truth is that almost no one is driving the speed limit on that stretch of highway.

Try it some time.

Drive the speed limit, day or night, and you’re basically treated like a highway obstacle. Other cars flit out around you and disappear into the distance, the ruby of their taillights disappearing into the distance in seconds.

Drivers look at a sign that says 100, and right away, they’re at 110, because that’s the speeding buffer that they believe they’ll get if they come over the top of the hill and light up a police radar gun.

Truth is, there are so few RNC cars on the highway writing tickets that seeing a speeder pulled over seems almost unreal, like a scene from a movie.

The true speeders, especially at night, bull by you at 120 or 130 or more, racing out of your blind spot and up beside your car without you ever having caught the briefest glimpse of them in your mirrors.

All in all, it’s a dangerous mix, and it’s at its worst in the morning and evening rush hours, when there are more drivers and less room for errors.

There’s certainly something wrong on the Outer Ring.

It may be the road itself, or it may be us, the drivers.

I’m betting that the drivers are making whatever other problems there are far worse.

It’s downright trite to say that someone’s going to be seriously injured or maimed as a result — they already have been, and it’s made not one iota of difference.

If drivers won’t take speeding seriously, someone else — the police — are going to have to make a concerted effort to start hitting many more drivers in the wallet.

How many wrecks is enough?

Russell Wangersky is The Telegram’s editorial page editor. He can be reached by email at rwanger@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: Kenmount Station, Florida Interstate

Geographic location: Outer Ring Road, Thorburn Road

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Recent comments

    November 30, 2010 - 21:06

    I note RNC out full force today,no accidents, how come just today when this has been a death trap all along. RCMP seem to patrol our highways continually, maybe we should look at them taking over highways from LOGY BAy right on thru. With modern technology, sit police cars and phto speedy cars, dont chase, ,send tickets, it wont be long before word is out big brother have you on camera, slow down , some of use want to arrive at work safely.

  • Robert
    November 30, 2010 - 19:43

    Peter and Mr. T...Ruts, water pooling, and poor weather conditions are no excuse for bloody ignorance. Common sense (and there's a shortage of that apparently) should dictate how one drives. Gather in any group and each will give his or her excuse why they can safely exceed the limit or run yellow and red lights. It's always the other person's fault if there's an accident. I'm with the editor on this. I set my speed at 100km and vehicles whiz by me even it it's at night and foggy. The drivers don't have a shaggin' clue. What I'd like to see is those morning and evening wrecks in the ditch or in the median remain there until people make their way to work or home without those stupid road closures. In addition those drivers should be charged with reckless driving because that's exactly what it is! Excellent column Russell.

  • Herb Morrison
    November 30, 2010 - 11:58

    When you consider that I have been passed by other drivers while driving the legal limit on street like such as LeMarchant Rd. and New Cove Rd, it is not surprising to know that people are exceeding the leagal speed limit on the Outer Ring Rd.

  • Peter
    November 30, 2010 - 10:39

    The context of this column reveals the relative youth of the author. The outer ring road was first conceived in the 1960’s and was proposed in the context of the “super highway”. Based partly on the concepts from the American Interstate Designs. That Mega –Project was not only intended to stimulate the economy but provide a strategic military advantage – the ability to move large amounts of material and personal across the country traveling at various speeds from overloaded tractor-trailer trucks creeping along to high speed communications vehicles. [http://politics.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2009/02/05/eisenhower-interstate-highways-offer-a-road-map-for-obama-stimulus.html] Then on top of this, the US auto manufacturers competed as sponsors on the NASCAR circuit. This required that they produce Daytona grade drive train components available to show room customers. The age of the Muscle car was born. . “Police Specials” from that era had speedometers registered for up to 160 MPH ( over 200 Km/hr)!! The envy of the German “Autobahn” and limited DUI laws and enforcement did not help matters at all. At that time local ER surgeons lamented the carnage of summer long weekends. Although they were not all as (publically) outspoken a the current generation would (might) be??? Will better highway enforcement solve the problem? Even if the highways are designed for speed – are the current generation of vehicle designs compatable? It is also unlikely that except for highway patrol officers, few are formally trained to drive at autobahn speeds? St. Johns wants Mount Pearl to share the cost of maintaining the new intercity link. Maybe all arterial highways should be tolled? There would be rebates for carpooling and some commercial vehicles. Then for every accident the toll would go up temporarily. Maybe then the users might decide to pull over, stop and call in the all the amateur Nascar and Formula I pilots.

  • Mr. T
    November 30, 2010 - 08:04

    Russell you are right, there are multiple problems on that stretch of road: ruts, water pooling, lack of RNC, and of course speed is also a problem. It is a heavily congested area heading east in the morning, and west in the evening due to the merge into Paradise. There was a police car on that stretch this morning with the lights flashing, but that cause people to over-react and start driving 30 and 40 KM/HR, which is also dangerous. Traffic was brought to a crawl and it was backed up right back to Paradise. It's a tough situation, but more speeding tickets need to be handed out. The only way to get through to people is to dig into their wallets.