The hiding of the fact that a guardrail terminus where four teenagers drowned in Miramichi New Brunswick on April 20, 2019 was outdated and inadequate is irresponsible. Future tragedies might be avoided through recognition and replacement of such installations. But when those who are aware of the problem attempt to hide its existence the impetus for change is lost.

The CBC posted another news article on April 26th, 2019 generally describing the anguish of the friends and families of the four young teenagers who perished when their Nissan Rogue was vaulted over the end of the outdated guardrail and into an adjacent pond. The guist of the article was to demonstrate the heroics of those who tried to pull the teenagers out of their upside down vehicle, to no avail. And similar heroics were discussed with respect to the hospital staff who also tried to save the teens. All this wording was for the benefit of making readers admire the actions of all those involved in the process. How could anyone be critical of this process in the environment of such anguish and sadness. And so no criticism has evolved, not even about the obvious inadequacy of the guardrail installation that was likely a factor in the teens deaths.

The Miramichi site is not a unique circumstance as aged and inadequate roadside barriers continue to exist for years in other provinces, including Ontario. Below we can examine a set of photos taken in April 2012, of such a dangerous installation that continues to exist, even to this day, without any action taken.

This view looking east along Egremont Drive north-west of London, Ontario was taken in April, 2012. It shows the installation of a guardrail with a buried end treatment similar to one at the Miramichi accident site.

By burying the end of the guardrail a striking vehicle is vaulted into the roadside. At this Egremont site a bridge crosses over the Oxbow Creek thus a vehicle could be vaulted into the creek just like at the Miramichi site. (Photo from April 2012)

This photo from April, 2012 shows that the guardrail has lost its anchorage bolts that connect it to the concrete bridge abutment. Thus a striking vehicle would likely impact the immovable concrete abutment or drive through the guardrail and into the water.

View in April, 2012, of the Oxbow Creek at the Egremont site. A vehicle vaulting over the aged guardrail could land in the creek and the vehicle occupants could drown just like at the Miramichi incident.

View of the same guardrail at the Egremont site five years later (April, 2017) showing that nothing has changed except that the system has become older and more dangerous.

With respect to the Miramichi site no one has said anything about the end of the guardrail through which the Nissan passed and was vaulted, thereby carrying the vehicle further into the roadside and giving the opportunity for the vehicle to reach the water where the drownings occurred. No one has said whether the end treatment met the current acceptable standards of design as spelled out in documents such as the Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware (MASH) or even its aged predecessor, NCHRP-350. In fact these U.S. technical documents are kept away from the general public’s view. There is no easy way to obtain copies of either of these documents. Furthermore, there is nothing available in Canada with respect to what standards are appropriate in each province. This essentially gives provincial governments “carde blanche” to keep whatever outdated roadside installations they wish. Even more tragic to the general public is that some provincial governments, such as Doug Ford’s Conservatives in Ontario, are bringing in legislation that would prevent civil suits from being launched against the provincial government when its failures to provide a safe roadway environment leading to needless deaths and injuries. Such legal penalties do not even slap the specific hand that “stole the cookie”, they only penalize the general public which pays the provincial taxes and from which the legal penalties are withdrawn.