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.