(WATCH: The ‘Coalition for a Safer 63 and 881’ has unveiled an eye-opening project to raise awareness on highway safety. Emily Mertz has the details.)
EDMONTON – It’s an interactive map of two highways in northern Alberta that emphasizes just how deadly those roads are.
“I was shocked and heartbroken to see how many people have lost their lives on these two highways in the last decade,” says Debbie Hammond, the executive director of the coalition.
“In the last month alone, we’ve seen seven or eight deaths between 63 and 881. It’s so tragic because they’re preventable,” she adds.
“People are having to move on without their loved ones and I simply can’t imagine how that must be.”
The goal, the group says, is to educate drivers about how dangerous those highways can be and get people to reflect carefully on their own driving habits.
“I hope that people have that same impact, that they connect emotionally with this issue. It is an emotional issue. We shouldn’t have to be saying goodbye to loved ones and we’re hoping that this creates that awareness. Hopefully they see that it’s preventable and that they also do a bit of self-reflection on their own driving.”
Between 2006 and 2010 alone, there were 3,339 collisions on Highway 63 and Highway 881. Ninety-nine of those were fatal.
Hammond stresses the maps are an educational tool rather than a database. All the information displayed on the maps was taken from public sources like RCMP and police reports and media coverage. Crash details that weren’t made public weren’t included in the maps out of respect for victims’ family members.
The coalition – a group made up of oil and gas industry leaders – hopes the project will make an impact on drivers and their loved ones.
“It doesn’t matter how good our infrastructure is or how much law enforcement we have out there, if people don’t take responsibility for their own driving – and make sure they know the rules of the road, that they know the road conditions before they set out, that they’re in a road-worthy vehicle – they’re not taking ownership,” says Hammond.
“Our highways can be great, but if people don’t take ownership, we’re going to continue to see people dying on our highways.
“Each driver has that direct impact when they’re behind the wheel to make a safe choice.”
Drivers are also invited to take a pledge promising to do all they can to arrive safely and ensure the safety of others. The pledge is available on the coalition’s website.
The provincial government says Highway 63 is on schedule to be completely twinned by 2016.