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.
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.
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 email@example.com.