In the wake of 16 people being killed in the crash of the Humboldt Broncos team bus in rural Saskatchewan, local politicians are vowing sweeping safety updates to the intersection where it happened.
“This cannot happen again,” Dale Poggemiller, a rural councillor who lives near the crash site, said last week. The area’s deputy reeve, Ian Boxall, called for a review of rural highway intersections across the province.
As Saskatchewan traffic planners weigh their options, it’s almost certain that they will be considering roundabouts, a technology embraced around the world as the go-to method of stopping the bleeding at deadly rural intersections.
“Rural roundabouts provide an effective resolution to an intersection with a poor crash history, and more importantly, an intersection with a history of severe crashes,” reads a 2014 study by the U.S.-based Transportation Research Board.
The Holt Road interchange in Bowmanville, Ont. is shown in this undated handout image.
The paper analyzed 17 American intersections that had collectively killed 11 people over a roughly five-year period. After being converted into roundabouts, however, researchers found that injury-causing crashes plummeted by 84 per cent and fatal crashes stopped entirely.
On April 6, a semi-truck carrying peat moss slammed into a coach bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos, a team in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. Sixteen were killed, either instantly or later in hospital.
The crash occurred at the junction of Highway 35 and Highway 335, an intersection roughly 20 minutes north of Tisdale, Sask. that is already well-established as a site of tragedy.
In 1997, a pickup truck carrying seven blew through the stop sign at the intersection, putting the vehicle directly into the path of a semi-truck. The pickup exploded into flames after being slammed into a ditch, killing all but a six-year-old boy.
The intersection is a two-way stop, with Highway 35 having the right-of-way, and Highway 335 having a stop sign. Both roads have posted speed limits of 100 km/h,
After the 1997 crash, highway crews added a flashing light to the stop sign. However, the intersection still lacks rumble strips to warn Highway 335 traffic of the approaching stop.
Crosses for victims from a previous crash are seen at the intersection of a crash site near Tisdale, Sask., Sunday, April, 8, 2018.
Investigators are still examining the cause of the crash, including the possibility that the semi-truck driver would have been blinded by the setting sun. However, it’s clear that the Humboldt Broncos bus had the right of way, and that the crash was caused by the semi-truck’s failure to stop.
A majority of Saskatchewan’s fatal collisions occur at intersections, with high-speed unsignalled intersections being particularly susceptible to multi-fatality crashes.
In 2011, a report by the Government of Alberta examined the province’s own problem with deadly rural intersections and singled out roundabouts as the number one way to reduce fatal crashes.
“A high proportion of the rural fatalities and major injuries around the province occur at stop controlled intersections, and enhancements to the stop control have resulted in only limited effectiveness,” …read more