What can be done to make RHVP safer?

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION - Howard El­liott

“Call it a gut feel­ing, call it what you want ... I just know … There is some­thing funny about that road.”

That’s from Belinda Maras­sato, mom of Olivia Smosarski, who was killed along with her friend Jor­dyn Hast­ings when their car crossed a grassy me­dian on the Red Hill Val­ley Park­way in spring of 2015.

She’s not alone in her “gut feel­ing.” Since Ni­cole O’Reilly’s story on RHVP ac­ci­dents ap­peared Satur­day, many have ex­pressed sim­i­lar sen­ti­ments. There’s some­thing about the RHVP that makes many driv­ers queasy. The sus­pi­cion is sup­ported by sta­tis­tics. On or around the curvy parts of the park­way there have been about 200 col­li­sions over five years. That’s 100 more than the next high­est lo­ca­tion along the Linc and RHVP.

Maybe it’s be­cause of the curves. Maybe there is some­thing about the de­sign of the road. Maybe it’s mostly or even all about bad driv­ing.

So, if there is some con­sen­sus that the park­way is “off ” some­how, why doesn’t ev­ery­one just slow down and leave more room, as re­spon­si­ble driv­ers should do when con­di­tions are not ideal?

That’s a fair ques­tion, but it needs a trans­porta­tion psy­chol­o­gist to an­swer it. Who knows why driv­ers to­day, in­creas­ingly, don’t use com­mon sense? (It’s worth not­ing here that in the tragedy in­volv­ing the two girls, the fam­i­lies say they were told by po­lice the girls were not speed­ing.)

But over­all, the sad fact is too many don’t drive to match con­di­tions. Any­one who drives the Linc and RHVP reg­u­larly knows that first hand. So what should the city do? Coun. Sam Merulla wants to re­duce the speed limit from 90 to 80 and get per­mis­sion from the prov­ince to in­stall photo radar. It’s a good idea that Merulla’s col­leagues on coun­cil should sup­port. What about me­dian bar­ri­ers? Ex­perts say they re­duce the sever­ity of crashes but ac­tu­ally in­crease the frequency as driv­ers are more likely to bounce off the bar­rier. Still, less se­vere crashes is a good thing and coun­cil should make it a pri­or­ity — which it has not done to date — to as­sess the case for bar­ri­ers.

Fi­nally, these aren’t high­ways, but they are fed by two high­ways. More vis­i­ble and dra­matic mark­ings and sig­nage to make it clear these are park­ways, not ex­press­ways, might help some driv­ers get their heads around slow­ing down whether com­ing from the 403 or the QEW. Over­all, less speed and ag­gres­sive driv­ing should be the fo­cus.

That will at least re­duce crashes and their sever­ity. Maybe we can get at that gut feel­ing.

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