Protect Our People

Clayton Hunt
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Ever been driving down the Bay d’Espoir Highway and feel that you’re driving through a jungle?

Well, that may be a slight exaggeration! However, the point is that there are any number of km along Route 360 (from Harbour Breton to the Bishop Falls turnoff on the Trans Canada) where brush needs to be cleared from either side of the road.

Granted, there are sections of the highway that are really good in that you can see for fair distances on either side. Granted, too, that about 70 hectares of brush have been cleared from Route 360 in recent years.

That’s all well and fine of course, but the government needs to be more concerned with brush clearing along Route 360.

Some people in our province seem to believe that all moose accident would be prevented if drivers simply slowed down a bit on the highways. It’s highly unlikely any of these people have driven over the Bay d’Espoir Highway. Sure, speeding may be a factor in some moose collisions, but there are areas on our highway where any driver would not have much of a chance if a moose popped out on the highway.

And when was the brush clearing carried out on the highway? Eugene Nippard of the Save Our People Action Committee says that brush clearing should be done in the spring and the cleared area should then be hydro seeded so that grass will grow in the area.

According to Nippard, one of the reasons we’re seeing more moose along our highways now is that they love to eat the left over shrubs and brushes from our clearing efforts.

Apparently, the seeding has been done in other provinces like New Brunswick and has worked really well. In addition, we have the equipment in our province that can do the clearing and the hydro seeding at the same time.

Nippard says that if we cleared the brush along our highways at the right time and in the right way, and followed the process with hydro seeding, the area would be cleared forever.

What about some fencing along Route 360 to help prevent moose-vehicle collisions? Nippard says that New Brunswick, with a population of about 33,000 moose, has about 480 km of fencing along its highways. Newfoundland, with a moose population of about 125,000, doesn’t have a single meter of fencing to help prevent moose accidents.

Aren’t we an have-province now? Why can’t our government spend some money in this area to protect our people?

Yes, in the last few years government has taken some steps to reduce the number of moose-vehicle accidents – we have seen an increase in the number of moose licences issued yearly, we have more signage on our highways to alert drivers to danger areas and we have moose alerts being issued on radio stations.

The point is that while these steps are leading in a right direction, we can take other serious measures to reduce the problem.

About three weeks ago a family from St. Alban’s struck a moose while they were driving back from Grand Falls-Windsor. Although there was some serious damage to the vehicle, the three occupants escaped the incident without suffering any serious injuries. They were lucky – the situation could have turned out to be much worse.

And that’s another key point. It’s probably just a matter of time before we have a serious accident on Route 360, which will involve a fatality. Let’s start working on the problem now before it’s too late.

There are people in our province who have lost their lives in these terrible accidents and others have been seriously injured – some have been left permanently paralyzed as a result.

We fully realize that the moose-vehicle problem can’t be fixed overnight. According to Mr. Nippard, however, one of the key problems in the whole issue is that government officials do not take the issue seriously.

One of the key steps in solving any problem is in recognizing that there is a serious issue that needs to be tackled. This is a grave issue, it’s real, and it’s dangerous and we need to address it in a very sincere manner.

Anyone with other or similar viewpoints is welcome to respond to this editorial.

editor@thecoaster.ca

Organizations: Trans Canada, People Action Committee

Geographic location: Harbour Breton, New Brunswick, Newfoundland

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