Fam­i­lies look for an­swers to crashes on the Red Hill

Coun. Sam Merulla says photo radar is key to de­ter­ring speed­ing

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - NICOLE O’REILLY

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.

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