The deaths of six young occupants of a vehicle that fell into a large drainage hole in a construction site on McKay Road in Barrie Ontario in late August, 2022 point to lack of monitoring of roadway construction activity in Ontario. Municipal roadway operations in the Province of Ontario have become accountable to no one. It is not clear how this developed.
London Ontario is no different than other municipalities. As shown in the above photo certain roadway operations create potentially deadly scenarios. The results of these obvious roadway deficiencies are not publicized. In fact, an effort is engaged to hide those deficiencies from the public. Here are some examples.
Two Examples of the Problem
The above photo was taken in September, 2021 after road construction was completed near the intersection of Brydges and Hale Streets in east London. A left-turn lane along westbound Brydges Street was to be removed and a new centre-line was painted through the middle of the road. It can be seen in the photo that, although the old centre-line was partially removed, it was far from invisible. It fact it was very visible to westbound drivers. This was apparent when observations of traffic were made. The sequence of photos below shows an example of one westbound vehicle driver who obviously mistook the old centre-line to be still in effect.
In a quick survey of just over 18 minutes conducted on September 12, 2021, 12 westbound vehicles were documented on Brydges Street as they approached Hale Street. On eight occasions the westbound vehicles were observed travelling onto the wrong side of the new centre-line, and following the guidance of the old centre-line. A quick call to police led to modifications whereby traffic cones were laid down to guide drivers from the old centre-line to the new one as shown in the photo below. Up to the time that the call was made neither police nor city officials were aware of the danger.
A scenario like this is not uncommon, as exemplified by the photos below, taken on January 7, 2023, showing a confusing centre-line marked in the southbound lanes of Wellington Street at King Street in downtown London.
After over a week passed by the City of London began another construction activity in the northbound lane of Wellington Street. This new activity was right next to the spot where the centre-line was painted in the southbound lanes from the previous construction. It should have been simple for someone to recognize the painted centre line in the southbound lanes since work was being done right next to it. But that did not happen, as can be seen in the following photos.
Many incidents such as the one shown above become resolved due to the ability of human drivers to unravel these complexities which require a superior understanding of context. However, what would happen if the driver of the southbound vehicle did not exist? What if this was a “Self-Driving” vehicle or one in some form of automated control? Would the self-driving features of the vehicle detect the situation correctly or would it violently steer the vehicle into greater danger because of the markings on the pavement? One can only wonder. But not every human driver is the same. When municipalities create confusing contexts there will be instances where drivers cannot unravel the conflicting messages in time to prevent a collision.
The City of London must employ road inspectors to patrol roads like this as prescribed in the Minimum Maintenance Standards (MMS) legislated in the Municipal Act of Ontario. If such inspectors actually passed through this site as required there should have been an obvious ability to detect the problem with the centre-line marking and this should have been corrected immediately. Yet, for at least 10 days, the problem with the roadway marking has not been corrected. So how and where did this failure originate?
If a collision occurs and a claim is made against a city like London there is a Risk Management Department available to protect its interests. In many instances the lawyers in this department are not obliged to simply pay out claims even when there is some fault on the part of the City. Their job is to minimize those payouts and to protect City employees and departments from liability. And often the Risk Management Department works to maintain secrecy about problems in the City that could generate a claim. This often involves operating behind the sight of elected officials who are obliged to appear transparent in the eyes of the electorate. This is why, when an elected official is approached about a roadway complaint the complainant is steered toward staff employees who are not obliged to be transparent and are not obliged to inform the public about their activities.
This secrecy is at the heart of many road safety problems that are not resolved even after there have been tragic collisions that could have been prevented if a road problem was properly identified and corrected. Plaintiff and defense lawyers alike play games to absolve their clients from liability but this does nothing to improve the safety of the general public.