By Greg Nikkel
Residents of the Pangman area are concerned after another fatal accident occurred at the intersection of Highways 6 and 13, just east of Pangman, and are wondering what can be done to help make the intersection safer for motorists.
The most recent accident claimed two lives and sent three others to hospital when three vehicles collided at the intersection on Aug. 19.
Longtime resident Doug Lewgood, who is a village councillor and formerly farmed land on that corner, expressed concerns following the accident.
"The concern in this community is the high volume of traffic, which we can't do anything about, and the number of accidents that we've seen. When is too many?" said Lewgood.
He noted he farmed the land on that corner for nine years, and in that time he recalls at least four or five bad accidents there, and the occurrence of accidents seems to be ongoing ever since.
"The people I bought the farm from have said it was the same thing when they lived there; it's just been ongoing," he said.
"I tell you what, it's a dangerous corner. We've tried to draw attention to the need for something to be done. I know this isn't the only busy intersection in our province, but we're concerned," said Lewgood.
One of his observations is that a lot of the people who are involved in accidents at that intersection are from out of the area or out of the province, and are not familiar with the layout of the land at that intersection.
In the most recent accident, one of those killed was a 44-year-old man from Austria, driving one of the two SUVs involved; a 59-year-old Radville man driving a semi-truck trailer unit was also killed in the collision.
A passenger with the Austrian man was taken by ambulance to hospital in Regina with undetermined injuries, plus the driver and passenger from a second SUV were airlifted by STARS Air Ambulance to Regina hospital, also with undetermined injuries.
Lewgood said many people in the community were concerned about how horrific the accident was; he wasn't at the scene himself, but two co-workers are volunteers with the Fire Department, and they were deeply upset at what they saw at the accident scene.
"People who live here are well aware of that intersection; for people who visit, there's far too many accidents involving people from out of the area," said Lewgood.
Part of the difficulty is knowing what could be done there in addition to what is already in place, he said, thus a community meeting was going to be held to get some thoughts from other people who might have some good ideas on what might be considered.
"Do you lower the speed limit? What can be done to draw attention to the motorist of the intersection?" he asked.
Lewgood acknowledged sometimes time elapses between bad accidents, "and you forget about it, until there's another accident, and it comes to mind again."
As a councillor for the Village of Pangman, he said he can't speak for the RM of Norton, but in talking to councillors there he knows they do have a concern also about the intersection.
The north-south traffic on Highway 6 is through traffic and does not have a stop or yield sign; only the east-west traffic on Highway 13 has a stop sign.
"When I lived there, you'd see people fly through there at 110 kilometres an hour," he said. "You can save a lot of lives by doing something."
Lewgood noted the north-south traffic, as it connects Regina to the U.S. border, can be particularly heavy at times, while grain hauling traffic east to Weyburn can also be very heavy from the Pangman, Ogema and Bengough areas.
For the reason of the heavy north-south traffic, he didn't think a four-way stop would necessarily help anything, but suggested lowering the speed could help.
Weyburn-Big Muddy MLA Dustin Duncan, who is also the province's Health minister, drove out to personally take a look at the intersection on Friday morning upon hearing of the residents' concerns, and in an interview, he noted the speed limit for the north-south traffic is lower, at 80 km an hour.
"When I am in Pangman from time to time, highway traffic safety issues comes up on occasion," said the MLA.
When he drove out to look the intersection over, he pointed out that when one is heading west on Highway 13, there is a sign 700 metres from the intersection indicating there is a stop sign, plus there are rumble strips to warn the motorist as they approach the corner.
"On the other side of the highway (going east), there are two signs, one at 700m and at 300m. There are rumble strips there also, but they're worn down, so I'm hoping Highways will consider redoing the rumble strips on that side," said Duncan, adding that the north-south traffic is free-flowing, with flashing lights indicating the 80 km/h zone plus that there is an intersection coming up.
"In terms of signage, I'm not sure what more Highways would do. At a minimum, I hope the rumble strips can be redone," said the MLA.
Asked if lowering the speed some more, or making the intersection a four-way stop, would help, Duncan said, "I don't know if that would really help. The east-west side has a stop sign. It's controlled from that direction."
As far as anything else that could be done, he said, "I would defer to the engineers. I'm not sure if (a speed limit change) would change all that much. There's only so much that adjusting the speed limits can do."
Part of the layout of the intersection is a rise just before reaching the intersection, so it can surprise a motorist who is unfamiliar with the terrain.
MLA Duncan acknowledged there is a bit of an elevation change on the north side of the intersection, but as there isn't a stop sign for that direction, he didn't think that was much of a factor.
"On the west side there's an elevation change, but as you come out of that, there is a sign at 700m to warn you," said Duncan.
"The safety of the travelling public is a priority of government, and we have made significant changes to the traffic laws to that end," said MLA. "If there is anything we can do, we'll do it."
In this case, Duncan said he wanted to go out and see the intersection for himself to see what might be done, and said he's asked Highways to at least look into improving the rumble strips on the west side of the intersection, for the east-bound traffic, as he felt those strips are worn down and need replacing.
Highways spokesman Joel Cherry said Monday they are going to have an engineer go and look at the rumble strips to see if they need any upgrading at all, and said probably they would be out there later this week.
As for the intersection's safety, he noted the department has a protocol in place to look at it when there is a bad accident.
"Whenever there's a fatality, we conduct an investigation. The RCMP also conduct one, as they look into the cause of the accident. Our investigation would be from an engineering perspective, and any changes would be made pending our investigation," said Cherry.
He noted that from the Department's point of view, there are a number of safety features at the intersection already in place.
There are stop signs with flashing red lights for the east-west traffic, and on Highway 6, he said there is a "hidden intersection" sign to warn motorists as they approach the intersection, plus the lanes flare out some to allow for left-turning traffic without disrupting the north-south flow.
Cherry said the Department takes into account many things in their investigation of the scene of the accident, such as sight lines or whether lighting is a factor.
"Whether we do more will depend on what the investigation determines," he said, noting this investigation is independent of the one carried out by the RCMP.
On the rumble strips, Cherry noted that the department regularly schedules inspections of the strips and of the other safety features, and the scheduled inspection should be taking place within the week to see if any work will be needed to upgrade them.
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