By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
Fatal collisions involving transport trucks are up province-wide, but one of the OPP’s top-ranking traffic safety officers says the blame cannot fall in just one direction.
According to recently released data, there have been 33 fatal collisions involving transports so far this year, up from 24 at the same time in 2017.
This represents a 38 per cent increase. Altogether, 41 people have died in the collisions.
Within the OPP’s Highway Safety Division, which includes Oshawa and Durham Region, the number of fatal collisions climbed slightly from two last year to three so far in 2018.
The North East Region saw the biggest jump, with nine fatal collisions through the beginning of July. At this time last year, there had only been one.
In the first seven months of 2018, the OPP has investigated more than 3,600 transport truck-related collisions which represent about 11 per cent of all incidents in Ontario.
Police have laid 1,615 speeding charges, 963 defective equipment-related charges and 354 distracted driving charges against truck drivers this year.
For Sgt. Kerry Schmidt of the OPP’s Highway Safety Division those numbers are worrisome.
“It’s certainly a concern. When a big truck is involved in a wreck the potential for injury and death is much higher, and it takes much more clean up effort and restitution to the highway,” he says.
And while only about one in every ten crashes in Ontario involves a transport truck, those that do account for about a quarter of all fatal collisions.
“That’s a pretty a significant number that people need to understand,” he says.
Schmidt is quick to clarify that the OPP is not attempting to lay all the blame at the feet of truck drivers.
“We get tons of complaints from both sides,” he says.
From July 15 to July 21, the OPP facilitated its Operation Safe Trucking campaign, and Schmidt is pleased to report there were no fatalities during that week.
He said officers took the opportunity to ride in a transport truck to get a different view of what is happening on Ontario’s roadways.
“We were watching distracted drivers from the truck. We can see how other cars are driving around [trucks]. It’s certainly something that brings some of the issues to the forefront,” he says.
Schmidt says the importance of drivers of smaller vehicles using safe habits around trucks is unquestionable.
“The operators of the vehicles are the ones who are going to pay the price,” he says.
When a transport is involved in a crash on a busy highway, it almost immediately causes a ripple effect, Schmidt adds.
“That has a huge impact on the rest of the public. There are sometimes secondary crashes,” he says.
He recalls a recent incident involving a transport where drivers on the other side of the highway were distracted by the accident scene, which ultimately led to another collision involving four cars.
Schmidt says there are indeed truck drivers who can be the cause of the problem.
“Ninety-nine per cent of truck drivers are fair and safe, and we appreciate it. But there’s that other one per cent.”
With Durham Region serving as a gateway to the GTA, traffic volumes increase significantly as drivers come into Oshawa on the 401.
While Schmidt doesn’t necessarily peg the region as a ‘problem area’, he concedes the potential of collisions is high.
Moving ahead, the OPP is going to take a long, hard look at the situation.
“We are going to look at our stats and look to see how we can be most effective in our education moving forward,” Schmidt says. “We can’t ticket our way to compliance.”