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Saskatchewan commuters facing highway closures, extreme winter driving

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan commuters facing highway closures, extreme winter driving' Saskatchewan commuters facing highway closures, extreme winter driving
More than 10,000 vehicles travel on Highway 1 between Regina and Moose Jaw on a daily basis. A section of highway that has been closed three times already this winter – Jan 29, 2022

It’s been a difficult start to the winter season along Saskatchewan highways.

“Yes, the highway has been closed and another thing is that it’s just been difficult to drive on this year. I just feel like this year we’ve had more days that either the roads have been closed or we’ve had travel not recommended,” said Stacy Lynnes who commutes from Moose Jaw to Regina regularly for work.

Highway 1 between Regina and Moose Jaw alone has been closed three times already this winter. So what does the ministry of highways look for when closing a major transportation route?

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan Safety Council teaching drivers winter driving with training program' Saskatchewan Safety Council teaching drivers winter driving with training program
Saskatchewan Safety Council teaching drivers winter driving with training program – Jan 11, 2022

“In the interest of public safety, sections of highways may be closed during severe winter storms. Certainly that would be when there is limited visibility as well as road obstructions,” said Saskatchewan ministry of highways senior communications consultant, Steve Shaheen.

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“What we mean by that is when it becomes impassible. Where there would be, say, a semi jackknifed and vehicles just can’t get through or when there is hazardous surface conditions like extremely icy conditions,”

Lynnes represents one of more than 10,000 vehicles that use Highway 1 to travel between Moose Jaw and Regina every day. However, she is fortunate to have a workaround for highway closures.

“I’m lucky enough to have a supervisor at work that’s very supportive of me to work from home,” Lynnes said. “Especially in the last two years we’ve figured out ways because of the pandemic to communicate with workers and coworkers just like you and I are communicating through Zoom right now.”

Read more: Winter driving conditions take extra attention, SGI warns

But the ministry of highways knows not everyone can work from home, which is why they don’t take road closures lightly.

“We understand that people need to get to various appointments; goods, needs to be transported to and from different places. I mean, Saskatchewan is an export-based economy,” said Shaheen.

Click to play video: 'Nasty weather sweeps through parts of Saskatchewan' Nasty weather sweeps through parts of Saskatchewan
Nasty weather sweeps through parts of Saskatchewan – Jan 19, 2022

Even on days when the roads are approved for travel, there is no shortage of challenges.

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“Every time I drive and the road conditions are a little bit sketchy you always see people in the ditch. You always see semis jackknifed. You always see people out there kind of putting their lives at risk such as tow-truck drivers and people like that who are helping others get out of their bad situation,” said Lynnes.

Read more: Saskatchewan RCMP respond to 107 weather-related calls, Highway 1 cleared

RCMP say some of the incidents that occur in extreme winter conditions are still easily avoidable, like a traveller that recently collided with a snow bank.

“How did this happen? We got photos sent to us by somebody that saw it and this individual’s windshield was covered with snow and ice. The windshield was covered with, I’m going to guess, three to four inches of snow not cleaned off at all, so it was literally like this person was driving with their eyes closed,” according to Indian Head RCMP Sgt. Ryan Case.

Case has some simple advice for commuters.

“Make the decisions based on the road conditions that you already know exist. Commuters have to make that decision. Is it really that important for me to drive down that road and risk my life or somebody else’s in order to get to where I think I need to be?”

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