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Jury calls for photo radar, weather warnings

WINDSOR, Ont. - An inquest jury has called for everything from photo radar to a better system for warning motorists about severe weather conditions in a series of recommendations that come from a coro...


WINDSOR, Ont. – An inquest jury has called for everything from photo radar to a better system for warning motorists about severe weather conditions in a series of recommendations that come from a coroner’s inquest into last September’s 87-vehicle crash that killed eight people on Hwy. 401.

Ontario’s transportation minister, however, immediately discounted any plans to re-introduce photo radar. “It’s certainly not something on the table as of this moment because it doesn’t address the root cause of aggressive driving,” Transport Minister David Turnbull told the media. “It doesn’t deter rapid lane changes, or tailgating, or drunk driving, which are things you want to get out with police enforcement.”

The governing Tories ended a photo radar pilot project shortly after being elected in 1995.

Among its 25 recommendations, the two-man, two-woman jury also called for stiffer fines and demerit points for traffic violations (with less leniency and plea bargaining at roadside and in court), more police resources dedicated to Hwy. 401, and electronic signs with weather-related information to be relayed by everyone from traffic spotters to police and ministry officials who could also relay information to radio stations. The jury also wants the ministry to research a “survival strategy” for adverse weather, with the information to be printed in the province’s driver’s handbook.

In terms of the highway itself, the jury has called for paved shoulders on both sides of highway lanes, a continuous rumble strip between Windsor and London, Ont., and the expedited construction of median barriers along the Essex County section of the highway.

Although commercial driver fatigue was not cited as a cause of the crash, the jury did call for the more frequent monitoring of drive logbooks and an increase in the number of highway rest areas to allow for breaks.

While groups such as Canadians for Responsible and Safety Highways had tried to blame heavy truck traffic for the crash, it quickly became apparent during the inquest that police and accident reconstructionists were focusing on the weather, says Ontario Trucking Association president David Bradley.

Through its official standing at the inquest, the association called for such things as better signage and communication between the police and ministry officials.

The only association recommendation that wasn’t adopted by the jury was a suggestion to consider conspicuity markings for cars, similar to those that are required for trucks.

While he said the jury’s recommendations all make sense, Bradley was reluctant to say whether they would have prevented the Windsor crash.

“The best we can do is mitigate some of the factors that contribute to severity,” he said. “Accidents are always a chain of events.” n


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