Ontario out with new Highway 401 winter driving plan

(Newswatch Group/File)

KINGSTON – Less than two weeks before winter begins, the province has announced new measures to combat unsafe winter driving – namely focusing on big trucks.

Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca was joined by Prescott Mayor Brett Todd, Leeds and the Thousand Islands Mayor Joe Baptista and the O.P.P. today (Friday) to unveil the safety plan.

The steps, include truck inspection and enforcement blitzes along Highway 401, and are part of “long-term solutions to improve commercial vehicle safety through enforcement, education, training and technology.”

The plan includes adding more digital signboards along the Macdonald-Cartier Freeway from Port Hope to Quebec to provide real-time weather warnings. The forecast driving conditions will also be available on the Ontario 511 website.

This development comes nine months after a 30 vehicle pileup near Mallorytown involving a chemical spill. The most recent deadly Highway 401 crash was near Prescott Nov. 27 when two people were killed in a collision involving two trucks and three vehicles.

The provincial plan doesn’t go as far as some Eastern Ontario mayors have called for – widening the highway to three lanes or forcing trucks carrying hazardous waste to park during extreme weather.

The province says the number of people killed in crashes involving truck has dropped 13 per cent between 2005 and 2014 (125 to 109), despite there being more large trucks on the road.