When people drive badly

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

POLICE in Thunder Bay have released a list of the city’s most dangerous intersections and there aren’t many surprises. In fact, there are no surprises if the bad habits of many motorists are factored in. The surprise is there aren’t more collisions in Thunder Bay where the defensive skills of good drivers likely are responsible for keeping accident numbers down.
Thunder Bay is a city with an odd assortment of old and new street layouts and many traffic control systems that do not make a lot of sense. Modern systems, such as merge lanes, are rare, though many drivers appear to have no idea how to use the few that are here, slowing on them instead of signalling to enter and accelerating. Then again, far too many local drivers have the horrible habit of accelerating to block any attempt by other drivers to move ahead of them.
First on the list, with 13 accidents in just the six months ending June 13, is Golf Links Road at the Harbour Expressway. Golf Links was inadequate for the amount of traffic using it until a major widening project was completed last summer. Two north-bound lanes used to narrow to one and some accidents would occur when right lane motorists raced to get in — and often were blocked by those who wouldn’t let them.
Arthur Street at James is next with 11 accidents — not surprising given the existence of a mini-mall and a major grocery store on two corners and a raft of fast-food restaurants and gas stations nearby. A summer-long gas and sewer line construction job on Arthur may have lowered the accident rate since July but fresh pavement coming soon may be enticing to lead-footed drivers.
Third on the police accident list is Arthur and Mountdale where a centre turn lane for traffic in both directions headed to two malls, a hotel, restaurants and a liquor store add to the demolition derby in the intersection itself.
Bad driving habits show up most on Thursdays — the unofficial start of Thunder Bay weekends — and most collisions occurred in general between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., when, for some reason, more drivers appear on the roads and race around to their stops in an effort to get home in good time.
As always, police say the solution is simple. Drive carefully instead of, say, rushing to the next stop light, weaving from lane to lane in a futile attempt to beat it. Invariably, the traffic that was passed — dangerously — pulls alongside soon enough.
Some new rules: Big trucks don’t give the driver license to behave badly; phoning and texting really do cause more accidents than the city’s ubiquitous speeding habit, so stop it; and attention by the city to frustrating traffic light sequences and road designs will lead to fewer accidents. Please fix them.