Timiskaming—Cochrane MPP John Vanthof says a Highway 11 crash last week that killed a pregnant woman and the unborn child of a second woman is "an example of what’s still wrong on Highway 11. To us, this is our Humboldt."
The reference is to the April 6, 2018, collision that killed 16 people and injured 13 when a bus carrying a hockey team was hit by a transport truck.
"This summer, the OPP reported that fatal transport truck crashes were up 40 per cent, as many drivers ignore risks—40 per cent," said Vanthof speaking in the Ontario Legislature. "If you will recall, there was a W5 report that centred on the Humboldt crash— it was a bus crash, but a truck was involved. That report looked at whether our system had actually improved. One of the things that came out was that Ontario has 400 driving schools and eight inspectors for those—and not just for those driving schools, for all college courses."
Vanthof points out that the Trans-Canada Highway goes through New Liskeard, and there are two sets of stoplights there.
"They were just waiting at a stoplight at Highway 11, which is also our main street. Through no fault of their own, none at all, two unborn babies and one lady died, and one lady is in a medically induced coma."
A 21-year-old expectant mother, Christina Osmond, was killed in the four-vehicle collision at the intersection of Highway 11 and Highway 65 in Temiskaming Shores after a transport blew a red light.
Police have laid charges of dangerous operation causing death and dangerous operation causing bodily harm against the commercial vehicle operator involved.
Osmond's fiance, Alexander Niemi sent Vanthof a note after the tragedy.
"Something needs to be done. They need stricter standards to get a commercial license," wrote Niemi. "It's a damn shame when you just pick up a crib and just as you get it set up to start assembling it, the police show up at your front door and tell you your eight-month pregnant fiance and unborn son were just killed in a car accident because a transport blew a red light. Also, her friend, who she was with is in a medically-induced coma and lost her child. This should never have happened."
"It's about life in northern Ontario and we have brought this forward many times in this house," Vanthof told fellow MPPs. "Drivers with motor vehicles registered in the Cochrane region are twice as likely to be killed in a highway accident as those registered in Halton Region (southern Ontario). When it comes to motor vehicles registered in the Timiskaming Region fatal collisions are almost four times higher than in the Toronto
"Driver error. Inattention. Bad road design. Should there be a stoplight at the bottom of the hill on Highway 11?
Vanthof says people are asking him "How often do we have to raise this?
The government touts Ontario highways as the safest in North America, but Vanthof asked the House, Fighting back tears he said. "You know what? Highway 11 in northern Ontario isn't the safest road in North America. and neither is 17."
Vanthof wants t make sure that drivers who are licensed in Ontario know how to drive.
"We need to make concrete steps to driver licensing and safe highway design in Ontario, so Alex’s fiancée and baby, and her friend’s baby, didn’t die in vain."