Fatal collision by hospital no surprise

Having traffic stack up behind left-hand turners the cause

I’m writing this column about the fatal collision (I don’t use the word “accident,” as an RCMP officer long ago told me that word suggests something that was unavoidable, and most collisions are avoidable) that occurred Friday, July 5 at the intersection of Hwy. #13 that runs east-west with right-of-way and Sec. Hwy. #814, which runs north-south and must yield the right-of-way.

The intersection lies immediately north of the Wetaskiwin Hospital; it’s a busy intersection, with traffic coming from Hwy. #2A from the west, Camrose to the east, a major entrance to the City of Wetaskiwin to the south and “the back road to Millet” to the north.

All of the sources I’ve found describe the collision this way: A vehicle was stopped on Hwy. #13 westbound, waiting to turn south into the city. A small car was immediately adjacent on Hwy. #13 waiting to turn north onto Sec. Hwy. 814. The way the lanes are drawn on the highway at that time requires traffic driving straight through to stack up behind left-turning vehicles; hence, through traffic is required to come to a complete stop and wait for the left-hand turning vehicles to proceed. A right-hand lane is for traffic exiting Hwy. #13 onto 814 or into the city or as acceleration lane for traffic coming onto Hwy. #13; the right-hand lane is not marked as a through lane.

According to the sources I’ve read, an 18-wheeled truck was approaching the intersection on Hwy. #13 from the east and allegedly used the right-hand turning lane (intended for Sec. Hwy. 814 traffic) as a through lane, despite the fact signage states “Right lane must exit.”

The small car mentioned above, waiting to turn north onto #814, allegedly did so as the 18-wheeled truck was passing through the intersection. They collided t-bone, the car was struck on the passenger-side by the 18-wheeled truck and the passenger, a young woman, was killed.

This is a busy intersection, which is my opinion as a resident of this area over four years. It’s not unusual to see several cars stopped to turn left into the city. This reduces visibility, as the stopped cars block the intersection (many motorists also inch up into the centre of the intersection, reducing visibility even more). Those coming from east and west on Hwy. #13 possibly could see the stopped traffic and think, “I’m not stopping, I’ll just drive around them,” even though the right-hand lane is not marked for that.

There have been some calls for changes to the intersection, and as usual money has been cited as a reason this may not happen. That’s ridiculous; there’s a simple solution that costs only as much as some new lanes painted on the highway.

The same problem existed at the Hwy. #2A and #616 intersection in Millet. The problem was solved simply and quickly last summer by re-painting lanes in the intersection. Now, left-hand turns are exclusive to the left-hand lane; through traffic and right-hand turns now have the right-hand lane. In my opinion traffic flows much better in that intersection and it’s much safer and somebody else, somewhere in the government, must have held the same opinion or that intersection would never have been changed in the first place.

In my opinion, every intersection in Alberta that has traffic stacking up behind left-hand turning traffic is a death trap, and anyone who allows those situations to exist should expect collisions causing injury or death.

There is a moral responsibility for Alberta Transportation and the provincial government to improve every intersection as Hwy. #2A and #616 was altered last summer. To leave intersections in the same condition as Hwy. #13 and #814 is stupid and dangerous.

How much does paint cost, compared to a life?

Stu Salkeld is editor of The Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the newspaper.

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