Swedes may have the answer to stop carnage on Northern Ontario highways: Temiskaming chamber hopes provincial adoption of 2+1 highway system can lead to zero deaths.

AuthorRoss, Ian

A Northern Ontario driver is twice as likely to be killed in a crash as a driver from southern Ontario.

And if your vehicle is registered in the Temiskaming district, count yourself four times unlucky.

That grim comparative is part of the argument a road safety advocacy group is using to illuminate the need for a better engineered highway in northeastern Ontario.

The Going the Extra Mile for Safety Committee (GEMS) produced that gruesome statistic after combing through the Ministry of Transportation's (MTO) annual road safety reports of highway deaths by district.

The group is an issue-based offshoot of the Temiskaming Shores & Area Chamber of Commerce.

For years, the chamber and other business groups have been calling for upgrades to the 380-kilometre stretch of two-lane between North Bay and Cochrane, which is part of the Ontario section of the Trans-Canada Highway.

Highway 11 has passing lanes in various spots, but not enough of them to prevent serious accidents and fatalities, said the chamber.

The highway, they claim, has ostensibly remained unchanged for the last 30 years, as it has become the preferred cross-Canada route for long-haul truckers.

The lack of improvements to the road has contributed to fatalities from head-on collisions due to impatient drivers and unsafe passing, or single-vehicle run-offs related to driver fatigue or poor weather conditions.

The resulting highway closures have an adverse regional socio-economic impact; the elderly are leery about venturing out for long trips, timely deliveries to businesses are affected, and then there's the workplace safety aspect of putting professional drivers at risk.

"When that road's closed, it's our lifeline for all of us up here and it affects our mobility," said Mark Wilson, resource manager for the GEMS committee.

"There's a fear of driving, particularly in winter, or any time of the year.

"The trucks are becoming more of an issue with no buffer zone (for oncoming traffic) on the centre line. People are not comfortable driving when going down for a medical appointment or visiting family."

The MTO has told the Temiskaming chamber there's no chance of four-laning the highway north of North Bay, based on existing traffic volumes.

So Wilson and the GEMS group are promoting a solution originating in Sweden called the 2+1 system, a configuration they're touting as a "collision-free road."

It's basically a three-lane road with continuous, alternating passing lines every two to five...

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