This year’s deep snow, high winds and poor driving habits are being blamed for 20 accidents in the past two weeks on the Trans-Canada Highway in the area of Witless Bay Line and Butter Pot Provincial Park.
As a result of the dicey driving situation, the province is installing caution signs.
The incidents have resulted in property damage as well as injuries ranging from minor to serious, the RCMP told The Telegram Monday. There were four accidents on Sunday alone.
Given the traffic volumes and location of the dangerous stretch of highway in a heavily populated area, combined with the snow buildup and winds, the number of accidents isn’t surprising, RCMP spokeswoman Cpl. Jolene Garland said.
And it could have been a lot worse.
“Absolutely … we’re lucky we haven’t had a fatal,” Garland said.
“We’re definitely very thankful."
"... we’re lucky we haven’t had a fatal." — RCMP spokeswoman Cpl. Jolene Garland
In some instances, motorists are driving too fast for the road conditions, Garland said.
“When this is combined with snow drifting/visibility issues, which often happen quickly, drivers do not have appropriate time to respond to the conditions to adjust their driving,” she said.
“Once one vehicle goes off the road, it is often compounded by other vehicles which unexpectedly come upon these incidents and are unable to adjust their speed in a timely enough manner to be able to adjust to the conditions. These secondary vehicles often end up hitting the initial vehicle or going off the road, further compounding the safety concerns.”
The RCMP is asking motorists to be vigilant in driving through the area and reduce speed, because whiteout conditions can come on quickly and be blinding.
The accident scenes create a safety concern for first responders such as the RCMP, firefighters and paramedics, as well as tow truck operators, who are putting themselves in danger in order to respond in adverse conditions, Garland noted.
“At a scene it can be quite hectic at times. Things are moving fast. You’re trying to tend to injured people and make sure the proper resources are called,” Garland said, adding motorists moving through the scene can make the situation more dangerous if they are not cautious.
Garland advises those who pass an accident scene to proceed slowly and cautiously through the area, and not pull over to snap photos or video.
There have been no charges in regard to anyone involved in the accidents exceeding the posted speed limits. Garland noted, however, that people need to adjust their speed for the weather, and increase the distance behind vehicles they are following.
“If you are driving through whiteout conditions, you shouldn’t be driving at 100 kilometres an hour,” she said.
It is also recommended that motorists check weather conditions prior to travelling so alternate plans can be made — for example, taking a different route through Conception Bay South if they want to be extra careful.
A spokesman for the Department of Transportation and Works said the department had plows working on that section of highway Saturday and again on Sunday when some of the accidents happened.
Images from the nearby highway camera near Foxtrap from the weekend show good winter driving conditions, the spokesman said.
However, the landscape in the area, combined with this winter’s high snow accumulations and excessive winds, are resulting in poor visibility, thespokesman noted.
The department will place signs in the area to warn motorists that they may experience poor visibility.
In addition, the department reminds motorists that winter driving can be unpredictable, and to slow down and drive cautiously.