Slippery roads take their toll

 Twelve fatalities in Norfolk this year with one month to go

Norfolk OPP report there have been 12 fatal collisions on county roads so far this year. The most recent was on Highway 3 west of Simcoe on Tuesday morning. Norfolk OPP / Twitter photo

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Norfolk County isn’t the only OPP jurisdiction contending with a spike in traffic fatalities this fall.

Insp. Joe Varga, chief of the Norfolk OPP, said Wednesday that police in Elgin, Oxford, Middlesex and Haldimand also report a rash of fatal crashes.

Part of the problem is that roads in this part of the province this fall have frequently been slick. Many days have featured a mix of light snow and drizzle and temperatures around the freezing mark.

That said, Insp. Varga said it is incumbent on everyone to pay attention to weather and road conditions and adjust their driving accordingly. In many instances that is not happening, he said.

“Drivers need to pay attention and start driving according to road conditions,” Varga said at Wednesday’s meeting of Norfolk’s Police Services Board.

“Drivers need to be aware of their surroundings and slow down where there’s snow and ice. Snow tires are a must in my opinion. All these things will help get our accident rate down.”

A Norfolk man – 59-year-old James Henderson – was identified Wednesday as the latest traffic fatality in the county. Henderson died at the scene Tuesday when the vehicle he was driving crossed the centre line on Highway 3 west of Simcoe and collided with an eastbound propane truck.

Two men in the truck were not injured. Insp. Varga said the crash would have been much worse had the tank ruptured and exploded.

Henderson was the 12th person to die on Norfolk roads this year. Prior to 2018, the county’s highest fatality count since 2012 was the 10 who died in all of 2016.

Paradoxically, the collision rate in Norfolk this year is well within historic averages.

In 2014, there were 1,105 crashes of all types in Norfolk. This compares with 789 in Norfolk in 2018 with one month to go. Yet there were only six fatalities on Norfolk roadways in all of 2014.

The spate of fatalities in Norfolk has got the county’s attention since there were three in separate crashes in one week near the end of October. Indeed, four people died on Norfolk roads last month. OPP records peg the highest one-month total in Norfolk since the start of 2013 at two.

Police can’t cite a single factor to account for the rash of fatalities. The four fatals in October, Varga said, were due to speeding, inattentive driving, loss of control, and failure to yield the right-of-way.

With the recent legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes, the chief expects impaired driving will eventually insert itself into the equation. Varga told the board the Norfolk OPP have levied three charges of impaired driving involving narcotics since recreational marijuana was legalized Oct. 17.

With one month to go in 2018, the Norfolk OPP have laid 65 impaired charges so far this year. This compares with 95 in all of 2014 and 92 in 2015.

Windham Coun. Jim Oliver, a council appointee to the PSB, shared anecdotal evidence Wednesday that some drivers are not rising to the challenge of slick conditions.

On his way to the PSB, Oliver passed two vehicles that had skidded off the Cockshutt Road south of Thompson Road south-east of Waterford. The vehicles were at different locations and left the road independently of each other.

MSonnenberg@postmedia.com

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