What can be done to make RHVP safer?
“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.