Don't blame weather for dramatic spike in highway deaths, says OPP

26 people died on O.P.P. patrolled highways between Jan. 1 and 15 — up from 7 people during the same period last year.

26 dead in first two weeks of January, up from 7 in same period last year

Three people were killed in a head-on collision on Highway 7 in Pickering in early January. O.P.P Sgt. Kerry Schmidt called the overall spike in fatalities "startling." (Kerry Schmidt/Twitter)

It's been a "tragic and heartbreaking" two weeks on Ontario highways, according to Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Kerry Schmidt.

26 people died on O.P.P. patrolled highways between Jan. 1 and 15, he said — up from 7 people during the same period last year.

"That's a very startling number," Schmidt told CBC Toronto.

The province was lashed with extreme winter weather during the first two weeks of the year, including freezing rain, heavy snow, and temperatures that have swung from the -20s to 13 C.

But Schmidt cautions against chalking up the spike in fatalities to the weather.

"Poor road conditions and poor weather conditions don't cause crashes. It's poor driving that causes crashes," he said.

Schmidt said that speed and aggressive driving were factors in "several" of the fatal collisions, and cautioned his twitter followers to slow down, especially when driving in snow.