Families look for answers to crashes on the Red Hill
Coun. Sam Merulla says photo radar is key to deterring speeding
Families of those killed in crashes on the Red Hill Valley Parkway are calling on the city to revisit installing barriers there in hopes of preventing further deaths.
The call for barriers follows yet another fatal crash this week. In the past five years, 11 people have died in crashes on that road.
However, some members of city council say barriers will not solve the problem, arguing drivers need to slow down on the 90-kilometrean-hour parkway. Some are also looking to access more statistical information from police about what causes these crashes — data that would help inform action and also dispel theories — such as ones about substandard pavement — that abound over the city parkway.
Melissa Scholer says she believes her younger brother Michael would still be alive if there had been a barrier on the centre median when her brother crashed on Jan. 25.
The 25-year-old was driving to work when he lost control and crossed the grassy median. He died when his car collided headon into a commercial truck.
Police told the family speed was not a factor in Michael’s crash and it’s believed he lost control either because of a medical emergency, or because he was swerving to avoid another vehicle, Scholer said.
After speaking with three other families in the same sad situation, she sent a letter of appeal to the mayor’s office asking what she can do to have barriers installed.
“It’s time to wake up and listen to people’s concerns before another sweet meaningful life is lost because the city will not open their eyes and see what needs to be done to protect people,” she wrote.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger said the city has taken steps to improve visibility and enforce the speed limit, including adding reflective devices and bigger signage.
“Speed is a major factor that we are aware of,” he said.
City staff are also studying whether to expand the parkway, including looking at the possibility of barriers.
“There is a question about whether (barriers) would make it safer,” he said, adding the city would not install barriers now only to have them ripped out later as part of an expansion.
Scholer says this isn’t fast enough action, especially since there has been another death this week.
On Tuesday night a 26-year-old Hamilton man died in a three car crash that began in northbound lanes and ended when his car crossed the grassy median and was T-boned by a southbound vehicle. Police have not ruled out speed or alcohol as factors.
Scholer said the news triggered her grief and her steadfast belief that her brother would have wanted her to push the barrier issue.
Coun. Sam Merulla called speeding an “epidemic” on the parkway.
Following another crash that killed two teen girls in 2015, Merulla introduced a motion asking staff to assess safety measures on the Red Hill. He also asked the province to allow the city to make the roadway a designated community safety zone, so the city could install photo radar.
“All the studies that we have conducted, the most important thing is getting people to obey the law,” he said. “Don’t drink and drive, don’t consume cannabis and drive, don’t speed.”
While there have been some upgrades to lighting to improve safety, Merulla believes photo radar is the most important move to deter unsafe driving. The city has not yet heard back from the province on this request.
“At the end of the day the responsibility has to lie with every individual who drives on that road,” he said.
“I don’t know how people are looking to city to create a road that’s infallible.”
Merulla said he hears a lot of misinformation about the Red Hill Valley Parkway and its crashes. Police often don’t release details about what caused the crashes in cases that don’t end up in court.
Merulla said he and Coun. Chad Collins want this changed and are planning a motion to ask Hamilton’s police board to ask the police service to release data on what causes crashes on the parkway.