An 8.8-kilometre stretch of Highway 28 in North Kawartha Township is known as “the Highway of Death” to local people, says Coun. Colin McLennan, and he wants the coroner’s office to investigate its “frequent, often catastrophic collisions.”
In a letter to Dr. Paul Dungey, regional supervising coroner based in Kingston, McLennan says an inquest into one or more of the fatal collisions near the hamlets of Big Cedar and Woodview would lead to a review of factors causing them and recommendations for making the road safer.
Since March 2019 there have been four fatal collisions with six fatalities along this “hot spot” stretch of road, he says. On Aug. 21 a couple from Stoney Creek died in a head-on crash.
The stretch represents 18.8 per cent of the township’s portion of Highway 28, the letter reads.
“The remaining 81.2 per cent has not had any traffic fatalities in that same time frame. There has been only one other traffic fatality in the township during this period.”
The township receives a tremendous amount of seasonal traffic, and some local people have strict schedules for travel and some refuse to travel certain stretches at all, effectively cutting them off from nearby urban centres, says McLennan, who represents Burleigh-Anstruther Ward on township council.
He writes that it is an important route for commercial transportation, resident/visitors and long distance travellers as it is isolated from other major transportation routes.
In the interest of advancing public safety, McLellan asks Dungey to “speak for those who have lost their lives and protect those who have no choice but to travel this road by calling a coroner’s inquest.”
In August of last year, about 66,000 vehicles passed through Woodview over a seven-day period, and during what was supposed to be March break 2021, almost 28,000 motorists travelled through Big Cedar, according to the OPP.
Ministry of Transportation data for the period of July 1, 2015 to Aug. 27, 2020 for Highway 28 from one kilometre south of Mount Julian-Viamede Road to one kilometre north of Northey’s Bay Road, Woodview shows there has been 56 collisions, which includes 48 single-vehicle crashes, four approaching and four rear end.
Sixty-three per cent involved wild animals, 82 per cent were property damage only, 13 per cent involved injuries and five per cent involved fatalities; 64 per cent were in non-daylight conditions and 36 per cent were in daylight; 72 per cent were dry road surfaces and 28 per cent were wet.
According to the ministry, no improvements for the corridor are planned at this time because the stretch meets ministry design standards.
“Safety on our highways is of the utmost importance. In recent months, the ministry has been reviewing this corridor to identify opportunities for improvements,” states an email to The Examiner from the ministry.
“In June 2021, a number of deficient signs were replaced and in August 2021 brush clearing was completed to improve visibility. The ministry also placed mobile speed message signs within the corridor, in early August.
“The intent of the signs is to encourage adherence to the posted speed limit by advising drivers of their speed relative to the posted speed limit. The OPP have also been providing and will continue to provide enforcement along with the signs.”
The regional supervising coroner’s office did not respond to a request for comment on McLennan’s letter.
The Ministry of Transportation has no role in determining whether an inquest is held.
Brendan Burke is a staff reporter at the Examiner, based in Peterborough. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.
Brendan Burke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner