Western wardens call for safety improvements on rural roads

Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (WOWC) is calling for help to improve safety on rural roads.

The Good Roads organization found that traffic fatalities in rural Ontario accounted for 48 per cent of municipal road traffic deaths in 2019, even though only about 13 per cent of Ontario’s population lives there. Scott Butler, executive director of Good Roads, reported that in 2019, there were 428 fatalities on municipal roads, 205 of which occurred in rural areas.

This has prompted WOWC to support Good Roads’ push to create a provincial funding pool for road safety, repairs and upgrades to sections of rural roads deemed unsafe. Good Roads urges a collaborative approach to security, risk management, connectivity and economic development.

Glen McNeil, president of WOWC, which represents about 300 communities in rural southwestern Ontario, said the proposed plan would help prevent serious collisions and keep people out of hospitals.

“Litigations resulting from these accidents are also a significant factor in increasing municipal insurance premiums, which means that efforts to make roads safer are also one of the most meaningful ways municipalities can improve their risk profiles – while creating jobs for laborers who work in rural areas opportunity in western Ontario,” McNeil added.

“Many rural, regional and northern cities are responsible for maintaining extensive road networks on a smaller population/tax base,” Butler explained. “As a result, these roads tend to be older, in poorer condition and contain basic road safety infrastructure.”

Good Roads hopes the provincial partnership will help address dangerous sections of Ontario’s rural, northern and remote roads. Upgrades may include replacing legacy assets such as wooden posts with guardrails, while ensuring roadways have rails, signs, lighting and road paint. Upgrades may include more modern and innovative safety features such as guardrails, rails and crash pads.

Good Roads points to similar funding precedents in other parts of the world, including the High Risk Rural Roads (HRRR) program as part of the US Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP).

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