Despite string of highway tragedies, police say trend is downward
RCMP say four fewer deaths so far this year
August and September were especially deadly months on Newfoundland and Labrador's highways, but police say the number of fatalities is actually lower this year.
Up to this point in 2016, there were 30 highway deaths in areas patrolled by the RCMP, said Cpl. Oliver Whiffen, who manages the province's collision reconstruction program.
As of Sept. 29, 2017, the number is 26.
But a dramatic string of tragic incidents that began as the calendar turned to August dominated headlines.
And pushing the number — and shock factor — even higher was the unusually high number of fatalities in single incidents.
Highway collisions and fatalities in Newfoundland and Labrador:
Year | Collisions | Fatalities
2012 | 9,808 | 32
2013 | 10,703 | 33
2014 | 9,749 | 39
2015 | 9,392 | 50
2016 | 8,595 | 44
Source: Service NL
In just three crashes between Aug. 27 and Sept. 13, 10 lives were lost, including a family of three in a head-on collision on the Trans-Canada Highway near the turnoff to Bellevue on the Avalon Peninsula.
Prior to August, there were just seven fatalities, and authorities were quietly hopeful that the pattern of carnage on Newfoundland and Labrador roads might drop dramatically.
So what led to this spike? Was there a pattern?
Investigations are continuing, but Whiffen said it appears there was a broad range of circumstances, including everything from distracted driving and excessive speeds to medical conditions and poor weather.
And the collisions were all over the map, from Happy Valley-Goose Bay to Cow Head and Deer Lake to the Avalon Peninsula.
"Sometimes the weather plays a part, but the bigger part is people driving to the conditions of the road," said Whiffen.
One pattern that is consistent, he added, is the high number of deaths involving people who were not wearing a seatbelt.
He said it's still about 30 to 35 per cent of all fatalities.