It's funny, really. I've been in Fort McMurray for a decade and never once called Highway 63 "The Highway of Death". It seems like a ridiculous nickname to me, since most highways with any degree of traffic see some fatalities. The 63 is no different, and sadly in recent years has seen a lot of carnage. But I think it's time to stop blaming the highway, and start laying the blame where it belongs - on the idiocy of those who drive on it.
The twinning, or slow pace thereof, has been a serious issue for some time in Fort Mac. The reality is, though, that twinning will prevent some accidents, and may reduce the severity of others. However, it won't prevent them all - because as long as people drive like morons there will be accidents, and some of them will be fatal.
Just last Friday I travelled the 63 on our way down to Edmonton. My husband, the Intrepid Junior Bloggers, and I piled into the family car and set out early that afternoon. And it wasn't long before we started to see the lunacy that seems epidemic on the 63.
People can argue that speed doesn't kill, and I'm not going to get into that argument. The fact is that there IS a speed limit on the 63, and if you think it's too low then try to get it changed. Don't drive at 140 km per hour and think it's acceptable when it's illegal. It's illegal, AND it's unacceptable. And frankly I'm sick of it.
I'm also sick of aggressive drivers - those who pass four or five vehicles at a stretch, and often coming disturbingly close to oncoming traffic to do so. One miscalculation and you imperil the lives of every single person in every one of those vehicles. And you may not give a damn about your continued existence on this planet, but I care about mine, and about those of my family. I bet every person in those other vehicles feels the same way, too.
Finally, I am very, very tired of company trucks who drive aggressively, speed, and otherwise imperil the lives of others on the 63. On Friday we watched in disgust as four vehicles from a drilling company sped down the highway at what I believe was a speed in excess of 125 km per hour, passing other vehicles as a pack. One vehicle was a flatbed, two were drill rigs, and the last was a pickup truck. And in the case of a collision we all know that often the drivers of those flatbeds and drill rigs can walk away unscathed - but not so the smaller vehicles they collide with. Those others often end up as crosses at the side of the road instead.
So, I've decided I personally have zero tolerance for these kinds of antics. Every single time I encounter a company vehicle speeding or driving aggressively on the 63 I'm going to go public with it. I'm going to put it on Twitter, on my Facebook page, or right here in this blog. If the only way to encourage people to drive with some sense is public shame then that might be the way to go. And I'm hoping others might follow suit, too. You see, those companies are coming up to Fort Mac to work and are making money in our community. They have all sorts of safety standards to adhere to when they do so. But if they forget all those as soon as their truck tires hit the 63 then we have a problem, because they are endangering all of us.
So, OK Drilling Services, I hate to say this but I think your drivers, at least the ones I saw on Friday, are giving your company a black eye. And not only that but I believe they are endangering themselves - and everyone else on the 63. I am here to say they were noticed, and that I sincerely hope you take this opportunity to address this issue with them. I know they aren't the only ones doing this, so don't feel too singled out, because there are others. This is, however, your chance to address it before they start racking up the tickets - and before they are involved in one of those horrific accidents.
Look, people, in the end the highway isn't killing anyone. It's not driving at excessive speeds, ignoring road conditions, and being aggressive. We are. It's time to to stop blaming the road, and start looking at the real problem - us. Only then will we reduce accidents, and stop the deaths. Only then will we stop seeing death by idiocy. You know, when we stop being idiots.
Update, February 29th, 2012
In addition to writing this blog post I also sent an email describing the events of Friday afternoon to the drilling company mentioned in this post. I am pleased to report that today I received a response from the Director of Health, Safety, and Environment for OK Drilling Services. In the response he thanked me for bringing the issue to the attention of the company, and acknowledged that the company relies on community members to inform them of such incidents. He also indicated that the company will be holding a safety meeting and discussing this incident in detail, as well as taking steps to prevent future occurrences. I am both satisfied and gratified with this response, and I sincerely thank OK Drilling Services for giving this issue the attention it deserves. In the future I will continue to contact companies should I see their drivers behaving in a similar manner, and I encourage every single person who travels Highway 63 to do the same. I think it is within our power to improve safety on this highway, and this is just one step in that direction.
The problem is that no one thinks that they are personally part of the problem. I used to drive 110 km/hr on the highway, but it was okay in my mind, because I felt like I wasn't speeding. (Virtually everyone else was going faster than me.)ReplyDelete
But, 110 km/hr is technically still speeding.
When people drive 120, 130, 140, or faster, they think it is acceptable. They have some way of justifying it in their minds, or some reason why they are more capable of going faster than everyone else.
And if people have the gall to drive that fast, they will never admit to contributing to unsafe conditions, and they will never stop.
I don't have enough faith in humanity to believe that speeders will stop out of the goodness of their hearts. The only answer is better enforcement - every weekend, not just on long weekends. And, drivers should be charged with dangerous driving instead of just handed a ticket.
Call me heavy-handed, but I've watched the problem worsen for the last 12 years, and nothing else has worked.
I love this! the only problem is the company should be named and called saying at __ time on __ date # of your trucks were observed dangerous driving.ReplyDelete
I have a website that is about highway memorials. When I pass a memorial I wonder, "what happened"?ReplyDelete
Thanks for having the courage to enlighten people about the 63. All companies should have it mandated that their vehicles are to be driven at a safe speed, whatever that might be.
More policing would help solve some of the problems but drivers have to slow down.
I went down in Feb and I saw a guy almost kill people it was STUPID! I also still go to the City before them! Wasn't worth it at all!!ReplyDelete
I have in fact e-mailed the company noted in this blog post. In the past I have called when I have witnessed such incidents but as a writer tend to prefer emails as you then have some record of the discussion. I think notifying the company, whether by telephone or email, is absolutely a fine idea! :)ReplyDelete
Fact of the matter is that people are going to speed on Highway 63. Big reason there are so many accidents is because there's hardly any passing lanes from McMurray to Wandering River. So in turn you have people trying to pass five or more vehicles at once.ReplyDelete
Bad winter conditions on that road should make people go at or below the speed limit but in the summer time, there's no reason people can't safely drive 110-120km/h.
Lots of the trucks on the road don't even do the speed limit which makes it that much more frustrating and I'm sure which leads to more accidents.
I think like you said though, once the roads are twinned it should reduce the amount of accidents but people do need to drive with alot more caution.
Aaron, the argument of whether driving at 120 km/hour is safe or not is moot since it is illegal. If one disagrees with the speed limit then lobby for change, don't disregard it. And passing five vehicles at once is simply dangerous. Impatience and frustration isn't an excuse for such behaviour which can end in tragedy for everyone involved. And I agree - more caution is required :)Delete
I agree with most of this except the morons that drive TOO slow and UNDER the speeed limit! They can cause just as many accidents as speeders! It makes people, even me, mad and have to take chances to pass them! There should be a law about how many cars are allowed to be behind you when you can't drive the speed limit!Don't get me wrong there are many exsesive speeders on the road! My husband and I see just as many idiots that drive too slow as excesive speeders!ReplyDelete
In a decade I can say I have only very rarely witnessed anyone driving under the speed limit. It may occur but I think excess speed is much, much more common on Highway 63. I would imagine accident and ticket statistics would back up that excess speed is more common and contributes more often to accidents.Delete
Well done with this post. When I drive Hwy 63, it is at the speed limit, to the chagrin of the growing line of drivers waiting for that opportune time to pass. And as they go by, likely cursing me for daring to drive to the conditions, my inner monologue is reminds me that I am carrying precious cargo, and that responsibility is too important to forgo in the name of getting to our destination a few minutes earlier.ReplyDelete
Thanks for this blog... I too get disgusted with the morons that think they need to speed. I clip along and are constantly passed. But if I see an idiot coming up on me, I move (when safe)to the side to let them pass safely. Not only is the person speeding at fault, but so too are the drivers that don't check their rear view mirrors and if they see there is a traffic jam behind them pull over and let the people, in a hurry, pass. It used to be a common courtesy to pull over to let the line up go by, it takes all of a few minutes and so much less stress or aggravation.ReplyDelete
I believe the fault lies with all who drive period and forget driving etiquette.
I, like most, love having the tunes up and cruising in my own little world, (to the road conditions) but we have mirrors on our cars for a reason, not to check to make sure we look stunning behind the wheel, But to make sure all is good around us.
Please take the time to be safe!!
Those of you that drive at 100 kilomters per hour should at least have the decency not to ride on the bumpers of those in front of you. It may not have occurred to some of you (mainly because you rarely look in your rear view mirrors) that there is a whole "gaggle" of you knotted in clumps along the highway.ReplyDelete
That is why people have to pass five and six of you at a time. You don't have enough sense to leave a space between you and the car in front of you.
And do you pull off to the right in a passing lane? Hardly. You either speed up or stay in the passing lane, muttering to yourself that because you are doing the speed limit, there is no need for you to pull over.
Some of you even drive trucks.
What is your big hurry? You never have to pass more than one vehicle at a time; you are only choose to do so. That as well as speeding are both illegal. Blaming others for "forcing" you to break the law is a little childish.Delete
With that said I do agree with you on your concern with passing lanes. I have seen this many times. Why do drivers speed up in the passing zone and then drop back to what they were doing when through the passing lane?
Drove through Jasper this weekend. Some moron ran over 4 bighorned sheep on the road. He must have thought that there was a "1" in front of the posted "70" km/h sign.ReplyDelete
I know enforcement efforts have been stepped up on 63. I personally have done this several times, if you see someone driving like a moron...call 911 and get the best discription or licence plate number. In the three or four times ive done that, Sheriff's had the idiots nabbed in no time.ReplyDelete
I drove 63 for over 29 years, what bugs me the most is those who pull over on to the shoulder to let me past, and succeed in showering me with gravel, and making me fall back to prevent my entire car being 'sandblasted'. I am capable of passing you when the road is clear, just a\stay off the gravel on the side of the road (its irritating AND illegal)ReplyDelete
I do agree that speed is a problem but road servicing by the government is also a problem. I drove today from Edmonton to Albian Sands. I have driven all over Alberta and have never seen roads that were so poorly maintained. I encountered 5 sections with major icy patches and witnessed vehicles in front of me temporarily out of control. They were certainly not speeding or driving erratically. I know one should drive for the road conditions but a little sand would go a long way also.ReplyDelete
It's not always idiocy as sometimes it's just plain icy.