By Mike Anderson
York Regional Police have charged the driver of a white cargo van with careless driving after he crossed the double yellow line on Baseline Rd. and collided head-on with a dump truck last month.
According to YRP, the accident occurred on September 20, just after 2:50 p.m., when students from nearby schools were walking home to the Jubilee subdivision at John Link Ave., prompting concerns that the force of the collision could have propelled one of the vehicles across the ditch and onto the sidewalk.
Despite the collision’s severity, both drivers walked away from the accident. However, the van driver was treated for minor injuries at Southlake.
The accident forced the closure of Baseline Rd. until 11 p.m, while York Region crews cleaned up spilled hydraulic oil and diesel.
Eric Young, the owner of Sutton Fruit Market, was working in the back of his store when he heard the collision.
Young, one of the first on the scene, tried to pry the van driver out of the wreckage with a crowbar before Georgina Fire arrived.
“It was almost like a tin can got smashed up. The whole front end was banged in. I’m surprised that he walked out alive,” Young said.
The store’s camera footage, which Young provided to police, clearly shows the van heading eastbound, crossing the centre line and hitting the dump truck, heading westbound, head-on.
“Looking back at the video, he was totally on the other side of the lane,” he said.
According to Young, the dump truck driver steered away at the last second, avoiding hitting the driver’s side of the van, which probably saved the man’s life.
“He was super lucky,” he said.
Young, who lives across the street in the subdivision, wants the Region to take more steps to improve road safety on Baseline Rd.
“It’s unusual to see an accident like this. But it wouldn’t surprise me if this happens again,” he said.
“We’ve been here 27 years, and with the added housing, population and traffic, I’ve seen people overtake here, honking drivers for driving too slow.”
“Many people are speeding through here; they’re overtaking on a single lane in a school zone.”
Baseline Rd., a regional road, is only two lanes and has several speed reductions, in close succession, heading eastbound into Sutton.
Motorists must reduced their speed from 80 km/h to 60 km/h before John Link Ave., then enter a Community Safety Zone (CSZ) by Sutton Public School, which is 40 km/h during school hours, reduced from 50 km/h.
Young says a quick fix might be to extend the distance between the speed zones, improve signage and increase fines.
But, like many residents in the subdivision, Young would also like a traffic light installed at John Link Ave.
According to York Region, measures are being taken to enhance safety on Baseline Rd., including installing a pedestrian crossover just east of John Link Ave., with construction to be completed this month.
“The pedestrian crossover should help enhance pedestrian connectivity, provide protected crossing opportunities and safety benefits for pedestrians crossing Baseline Rd.,” said Nelson Costa, the Region’s Manager of Corridor Control and Safety, in an email to the Post.
However, the Post interviewed one young mother at the pedestrian crossover, who complained that without a crossing guard, cars sometimes don’t stop.
“I think it is great when the crossing guard is here to control the traffic,” said Alana, who also lives in the subdivision.
“But when they’re not here, one lane will stop, and the other will keep going. So a flashing light would be helpful.”
Mayor Margaret Quirk has promised additional safety measures, including the installation of cameras.
“This is a well-travelled road both by motorists and pedestrians, many of which are children who attend school in the area,” Mayor Quirk said in statement to the Post.
“Road safety is paramount on all our roads, and we must do what we can to protect everyone’s safety.”
“I will continue to work with York Region to see what further safety enhancements can be explored, including additional speed enforcement by YRP and enforcement cameras.”
York Region confirmed that two mobile cameras will be installed in the Spring of 2023, on Baseline Rd., east of John Link Ave.
But, the cameras are not permanent. After three months, they will be rotated to other locations.
Still, Costa says the cameras, called automated speed enforcement, will help reduce speeds.
“Results of the Automated Speed Enforcement program over the past two years show average compliance more than doubled, and average operating speeds decreased by 9 km/h,” he said.
However, Costa says that the Region will not be installing a traffic signal at the intersection of Baseline Rd. and John Link Ave.
According to Costa, the traffic volume is less than the required minimum; John Link Ave. meets only 30 per cent of the minimum volume of traffic needed.
Also, Costa says the number of pedestrians observed crossing at the intersection of Baseline Rd. and John Link Ave. does not justify a traffic signal.
During the eight busiest hours of the day, only 19 pedestrians crossed the intersection, which, according to Costa, is less than the minimum requirement of 200 pedestrians for an intersection pedestrian signal.
Costa adds that there are sufficient gaps in traffic on Baseline Rd. to accommodate left-turning motorists.
He also says a three-year collision history review does not satisfy the provincial criteria for installing a traffic signal.
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