Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Alberta's Highway 63 - Driver Behaviour

Alberta's Highway 63 has been under scrutiny in Alberta politics since the crash that killed seven people ten day ago.  RCMP K Division reported that RCMP and Alberta Traffic Sheriffs have laid nearly 700 charges after a four day blitz on Alberta's deadliest highway.  Their conclusion is that much of the problems are related to "driver behaviour", not whether or not a highway is twinned. 

Facebook groups and a rally this past weekend have pressured politicians to twin the highway.  Twinning started in 2006, but only 33km have been completed so far, while the Province says approximately another 30 km should be twinned this year.

Newly elected Premier Alison Redford said that the highway will be a top priority for her government and that once she announces the new cabinet today, she will make it the top priority for the Transportation Minister.  She called it a ``unique road`` and acknowledged safety concerns.

"I have asked our department to take a look at what an accelerated schedule will look like," Redford said.

"In our current capital plan, we have always anticipated that at least 50 percent of that road would be twinned within three years. We need to act faster than that."

 Her Deputy Premier Doug Horner earlier said that the construction crews had to deal with marshlands, which had significantly slowed progress on the project.

"If you've got a bottomless bog, how do you fill that?" Horner said. "So they've got to do some interesting things there.
"You've got to make sure the highway is safe when it's complete too, because you don't want the bottom falling out of it."

While driver behaviour is certainly part of the problem on the stretch, one can`t dismiss the importance of twinning the highway.  The road is used by the oilsands industry to transport its equipment and one can also understand the frustration of drivers, who sometimes run out of patience, with very limited space to pass.  While this is not an excuse for bad behaviour, twinning would certainly stop head on collisions.

During the four day blitz, RCMP and Alberta Traffic Sheriffs laid a total of 663 charges, including:
  • 552 speeding violations
  • 95 violations, including dangerous driving
  • 4 alcohol-related violations and one 24-hour suspension
  • 4 seatbelt or child restraint infractions
  • 8 violations from having no insurance to driving while suspended
RCMP contends that it isn`t just up to the Province to make the highway safer.  In the end it is drivers attitudes they say.

"At the end of the day, this is not about resources or whether enough of our highways are twinned, this is about driver behaviour, and the decisions drivers are making when they're out on our highways."

The violations issued during the four day blitz were double those normally issued for the same time frame.  Enough people have been killed on that highway and drivers should get the message by now.  Let`s change the behaviour but continue to push for twinning of this highway.  A little weight off the peddle along with twinning should go a long way to reduce the senseless deaths on this highway.  


  1. The amount of traffic and oversized wideloads far exceeds the capacity of a double-lane highway. Add to it the weather and length, and it's a recipe for disaster. There are so many dangers on the highway, it is unfair to blame drivers alone.

    The reality is if the highway is twinned and the northbound lanes are separated from the southbound lanes, the chances of a fatal head-on collision are reduced to almost nil - no matter what external factor causes the danger, and no matter if a driver makes an error.

    Efforts to change driver behaviour, including blitzes, fines, and intense media coverage, have failed thus far. The government has watched billions of dollars get invested in the oilsands since the 1960s, yet they've done nothing to provide a decent highway for all the citizens that are helping to drive Canada's economy. It's time for the government to get real and twin the highway.

  2. Nicole. Thank you for your comments, which I fully agree with. Speeding and other stupid things drivers do happen around Alberta or for that matter around the world. While this may have gotten some of the offenders, it hasn't fixed the problem, as you aptly describe, to stop head on collisions because of oversize loads and people needlessly having to take chances. Those that profit from the Alberta Oilsands, i.e. the operators in the area could help with the project.

    One of the problems seems the way the contract was tendered or not tendered. With the right priorities it is possible to twin the highway for more than one stretch, with several contractors.