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MPP says people are 'frightened' to drive on Northern Ontario highways

Lise Vaugeois calls for more oversight of truck driver training schools
Ministry of Transportation photo

THUNDER BAY — An area member of the legislature says the number of serious collisions on Northwestern Ontario highways recently is making people feel unsafe on the road.

Since about mid-December alone, five people have died in collisions, the latest being on New Year's Eve when one person perished after a collision between two passenger vehicles on Highway 527.

But Lise Vaugeois, the NDP MPP for Thunder Bay-Superior North, worries most about training for transport truck drivers.

"I get a lot of emails from people that say they are frightened," she said Monday. "That includes OPP dispatchers writing to me and saying they are afraid to be on the road."

Vaugeois called on the provincial government to acknowledge that there is a problem and address it.

"One of the reasons we are in this situation, and I can't remember the year [it happened], is the training of drivers was allowed to be put in the hands of the trucking companies themselves. And it's not being monitored. So they are self-policing, which actually means they are not."

The MPP said training schools need to be audited to ensure truck drivers receive the training they are entitled to.

"It's not fair to those drivers. It winds up really putting them at risk and all of us at risk, and creates a situation where people are angry at the drivers. I feel that's misplaced. The anger belongs with where the training is taking place and the fact it is not being done."

Vaugeois also believes completing the twinning of the highway between Thunder Bay and Nipigon and adding more passing lanes would be helpful.

In October, the Ontario Trucking Association launched a survey of truckers regarding safety issues in response to concerns it said it had been expressed by fleet operators, drivers and others.

The results have not yet been made public.

The transportation ministry has said that for the past 22 years, Ontario has ranked within the top five jurisdictions in North America with the lowest fatality rates per 10,000 licensed drivers.

"The Ministry of Transportation is committed to promoting the highest standards of safety for all Ontarians who travel on our roads, including the safety of all vehicle occupants," it said in a recent statement related to highway safety issues.

Last June, the government also announced a free truck driver training program to help people from unrepresented groups enter the industry and to help alleviate the current driver shortage. 



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