During the summer months in Alberta, road construction is anticipated and with it comes congestion and potential hazards. With the start of construction on our roadways, drivers can expect narrowed roads, decreased lanes, traffic slowing or completely stopping, uneven surfaces and changes in traffic patterns.
Unfortunately, road construction may also result in dangerous motor vehicle accidents, like the two deadly car accidents which occurred less than two weeks apart in a construction zone on Highway 9.
AUGUST 7, 2019 ACCIDENT
On August 7, 2019, a three vehicle crash involving two tractor-trailers and a minivan occurred on Highway 9 at Range Road 60. The Jeffreys’ family’s minivan was stopped in a construction zone when a semi-truck came up from behind and did not stop, forcing the minivan into the back of an already stopped tractor-trailer.
Passenger, Zachary Jeffreys, eleven years old, was killed in the accident. Lillian Jeffreys, eight years old, suffered a skull fracture and Gabriel Jeffreys, seven years old, requires reconstructive facial surgery, is expected to lose an eye and may have suffered brain damage. The children’s mother, Carla Jeffreys, broke several bones and has a tear in her aorta.
Fortunately, neither of the drivers of the tractor-trailers were injured in the accident.
AUGUST 20, 2019 ACCIDENT
On August 20, 2019, three people died and two individuals were critically injured following a multi-vehicle collision . The crash took place in a construction zone on highway 9 approximately 300 kilometres east of Calgary. The accident involved seven passenger vehicles and three trucks near Range Road 72 between Chinook and Cereal.
Initial reports indicate that one of the vehicles was a semi tanker truck hauling fuel, which ignited, causing several vehicles to catch fire. An additional semi truck was carrying butane. The collision area was engulfed in flames, which were not extinguished until 8:00 p.m. that evening.
Bob Jeffreys, the driver of the minivan involved in the accident on August 7, 2019, having heard about this second accident, stated:
My question is: why? If the construction crew set up the site properly, if the government’s been in there to inspect the site and regulate it properly, then why within 10 to 12 days do you have two major accidents that have taken people’s lives and have impacted the community around that location? … All I know is that it’s hugely suspect that you have that happening in the same location within such a short breadth of time and under virtually the same conditions, from what I understand.
THE CONSTRUCTION ZONE
On Highway 9, there is a construction zone running along a 54-kilometre stretch of the two-lane highway from Oyen to Youngstown.
According to Debbie Laughlin, who works at K&M Gas Plus, two serious accidents in two weeks is concerning. She confirmed that this stretch of highway is very busy with large transport trucks and typical summer tourist traffic. She stated:
Things are fairly clearly marked, but with there being construction, there isn’t any passing allowed through certain areas. There’s quite a number of stops along the way while they’re getting equipment out of the way and whatnot. There’s flag people and speed limit signs. …
Somebody is definitely not paying attention, I think. I don’t know if it’s an issue with the road…I don’t know if it’s just impatient drivers. I don’t understand how there can be such horrific accidents in construction zones. …
You really do need to be more alert and pay attention. I do understand big trucks can’t stop quickly, but they should be slowing down anyway, especially if they’re loaded. I mean, it’s hard to slow down a truck. So if you’re in a construction zone, you would think you would be slowing down, and then know your truck limitations.
The RCMP are investigating the cause of the second accident, which is expected to take several weeks to complete. A hazardous material team also attended to the crash site to assist with clean-up.
Transportation Minister Ric McIver has offered his condolences to the families of the victims and has reassured the public that the province will be investigating the deadly crash. Although Highway 9 is not currently on the province’s priority list, the government will be considering adding it. McIver stated:
We’re concerned about the safety on every road in Alberta every single day. … It’s interesting that both these collisions were part of the same construction site. We will look to see if there are patterns in between the first or second collision that might indicate some issue, some safety gap. But, in perspective, these collisions were 16 kilometres apart.
We will continue to assess the way that we had our construction site. Our initial assessment is that everything was done according to the rules, however we will continue to look at it to see if there’s something we can learn to keep Albertans safe.
TIPS FOR DRIVING SAFELY IN CONSTRUCTION ZONES
Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers would like to provide the following recommendations for driving safely in construction zones:
- Expect the unexpected, such as reduced speed limits, changes to traffic lanes, and workers and vehicles working on or near the roadway.
- Be alert and pay close attention to all orange cones and diamond-shaped orange warning signs.
- Comply with the directions given by the flagger.
- Be patient in road construction zones.
- Avoid distractions such as texting, talking on the phone or eating while driving which can divert your attention away from the task of driving.
- Slow down and do not drive too fast for the road conditions.
- Co-operate with other drivers to keep traffic moving and merge responsibly and early, if possible.
- Do not follow too closely and be sure to leave seven seconds of braking distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you.
- Expect and plan for delays by leaving enough time to reach your destination in a timely manner.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by another driver while in a construction zone, please contact the knowledgeable personal injury lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP. Please contact our office for a free case evaluation online or by calling 403-571-0555. We are committed to helping you obtain the compensation you deserve.