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Last Sunday morning (December 7th) my daughter, Sarah, drove us home from Toronto. She paid due diligence and checked out the Ministry of Transport highway report that showed the highway was ok for driving home to London.

The road was a little wet in the Greater Toronto Area all the way till we reached Kitchener. We had made the trip half way home in a little over an hour.

As we proceeded west there white outs and high winds that buffeted her SUV. There were no blue flashing lights of snow ploughs on the horizon to clean the road from the drifting snow.

The only vehicles on the highway were transport trucks that passed us on our left and right with little regard to the weather conditions or our safety. A very large gasoline tanker truck passed us and nearly forced us off the road. My daughter held on to the steering wheel for dear life and my wife and I prayed that we would not roll over into the median.

As we proceeded west of Woodstock the weather got a whole lot worse. The drifting snow showers were reflected back from our headlights making it very scary to proceed. We tried to exit on the Putnam Road, Highway 73 and 74 but the exits were plugged with snow drifts.

Our only chance of exiting the 401 opened up at Veteran’s Park Way North. We tenaciously made our way to Hamilton Road to find a safe harbour to our home.

The 32 wheel transport trucks pulling trailers a few feet from your tail-pipe is a scary experience. No wonder the mayor of Sarnia described the 125 garbage rigs as -“ The suicide ballet of trucks going down the highway to Michigan as unacceptable.” They are part of a convoy of 25,000 transport trucks a day in the London corridor.

Here are the interesting, ominous statistics. “Every 12 minutes in Canada a big truck is in a collision. Every 45 minutes someone is injured in a big truck collision. Every 16 hours someone is killed in a big truck accident. On average, each year in Canada there are about 43,000 collisions involving big trucks that kill or injure 12,000 people.”

The Canadians for Responsible and Safe Highways organization with the frightening abbreviation (CRASH) has produced their “ Report card on Big Truck Safety” reflecting provincial numbers. www.web.net/~crash/ They feel we have right to know.

The “we” includes the most vulnerable-pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, bus riders and motorists.
The report shows that size and weight affects the stability and control of the truck. “The current standard allows Canadian trucks up to 137,850 pounds compared to 80,000 on the U. S. federal interstate highways.”

“Truck drivers pushed to work excessive hours have less time for rest and are at increased risk of impairment and collision. Canada has set a world record by permitting drivers to drive for thirteen consecutive hours compared to eleven in the States. Drivers are paid by the kilometre at a very low rate. The drivers are under economic pressure to work more hours than legally allowed.” Just in time deliveries makes every minute count.

“On average 70 truckers are killed and 3,000 are injured in big truck crashes, making it one of the most dangerous occupation in Canada.”

Here are some of my suggestions for change. Set practical safe driving speed limits and enforce them. Differential speed rates limits for trucks and cars. Tax incentives for industry to use rail road piggy back service for long hauls.

How about photo radar cameras as a deterrent to curb drivers putting their pedal to the metal? Those who break the law receive a letter in the mail with a picture of their licence plate plus a sizable fine and demerit points. Duplicate copies of your summons would be sent to your favourite insurance agent. Accountability along with consistent consequences for all.

Perhaps someday we may all enjoy a week-end without the fear of death and carnage on our highways? I owe a sincere thanks to my daughter for getting us home safe and sound. Perhaps God watched over us all and helped steady the steering wheel?

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com