While the province puts its eggs in the bypass basket, people along the highway have been asking for a simple safety measure to be installed immediately - traffic lights. So far, the ministry of highways and infrastructure has resisted this idea.
Since 1996, the province of Saskatchewan has been in the process of planning a bypass route to divert highway traffic flow around the city of Regina. This bypass seeks help to reduce traffic congestion and improve safety along a corridor of Highway 1, which sees a high rate of fatal collisions on an annual basis.
Over the last decade, at least 12 people have died and more than 300 have been injured along this stretch of highway that runs between Regina and Balgonie. According to the project’s website, the bypass will address safety concerns, but its interchanges will not be fully completed until fall 2019.
Collision statistics for Highway 1 between Regina and Balgonie. Source: SGI TAIS reports
Among those who have been directly affected by the dangerous traffic situation are Bryant Watson, whose brother was killed in a collision, and Stuart Hall, who was in an accident involving a semi. It has been incidents like these that have raised awareness about the danger present at these intersections.
The Government of Saskatchewan, while aware of the collisions occurring with alarming consistency along Highway 1, has decided that the best plan of action is to move forward with the building of the bypass. They say that the interchanges, once completed, will mitigate the hazard currently presented to drivers travelling this corridor. Until construction is completed, speed limits have been reduced and photo radar cameras have been installed.
Many affected people, including those mentioned above along with traffic signal advocates, like John and Anne Panter, are advocating for the installation of temporary traffic signals for the interim period between now and the completion of the interchanges. The government says installing traffic signals would increase the frequency of rear-end collisions by 58 per cent, according to the statistics in the table below.
Source: Highway Safety Manual (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials)
While this may be true, collision researcher Michel Bédard from Lakehead University says that this number does not consider the larger implications and potential benefits of traffic signals. According to the stat sheet used by government, traffic signals would provide a reduction in right-angle collisions which, according to Bédard, typically result in more severe injury when they occur on the driver’s side. As well, the statistics show an overall reduction in “all collision types.”
Whether or not traffic lights are installed prior to the building of the interchanges along Highway 1, citizen safety along this corridor should be a priority of government. The solution to the fatal collisions along the highway is unclear, but should be a topic of discussion open to the public.