Technology could make Northern roads safer and slower: report it

Technology could make Northern roads safer and slower: report it

The Northern Policy Institute report recommends new ways to make roads and highways safer in the North

Technology can be used to make roads in northern Ontario safer, including with sensors that will automatically create a lower speed limit if roads are too snowy or ice-covered.

Using technology can reduce accidents and save lives, according to a detailed report published by the organization Institute of Northern Politics (NPI), — Smart solutions for northern roads By William Dunstan.

Dunstan argued that by using existing technology to change accepted driving practices, fewer accidents would occur and lives could be saved. It would also reduce the number of interruptions to driving through closed highways.

“Northern Ontario’s roads are often dangerous, in poor condition, or non-existent. A new NPI release says these deficiencies can be addressed through the use of innovative technologies in road construction and design. Several ‘smart road’ technologies already implemented in other areas are cost-effective opportunities to improve safety. Additionally, innovative road construction techniques can make road construction and maintenance in northern Ontario cheaper and easier,” Dunstan wrote.

The 14-page report outlines several options open to the government to make changes. One of the options is called QUICK, or Fixed Automatic Spray Technology. FAST is already being used in a few locations in southern Ontario.

The FAST option would automatically inject anti-icing fluids when sensors detect that atmospheric conditions are likely to create ice or snow on the road surface.

“The technology is suitable for bridges that freeze before the rest of the road, especially in remote locations where manual maintenance is expensive,” the report said.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) currently maintains eight FAST facilities across the province, but only one in its northern regions: in Burk’s Falls, near the southern border of the northeastern region, the report says.

Another option would use sensors to determine a safer and slower speed limit in bad weather. The system is called Dynamic Speed ​​Limiting (DSL), and it would adjust the speed limit to match road conditions. Drivers would be forced to slow down and thus reduce accidents. The report says the system could send weather information to an operator who would manually adjust the speed limit, or use technology to automatically change speed limits.

The report said DSLs have been successfully implemented in British Columbia on roads similar to roads in northern Ontario. A study conducted in 2021 examined the impact of DSLs during the winter season (October-March) on a section of rural highway and a section of four-lane divided highway. According to the report, DSLs reduced collision frequency by 35 percent.

Dunstan argued that DSLs could be implemented easily enough, given that weather sensors are already in place on highways in northern Ontario. Dunstan noted in this report that “on some northern highways, half of all collisions and an equal share of fatal accidents occur during periods of snow and ice on the roads.”

Section speed control is another option described in the report. He said that instead of using speed cameras to monitor a vehicle’s speed in one spot, cameras can be spread over several kilometers to monitor a vehicle’s speed on that stretch of highway.

Studies in other jurisdictions found that section control was able to reduce the incidence of serious car accidents, injuries and fatalities by 30 to 50 percent.

“If drivers know they will be controlling their speed on an extended stretch of road, they are more likely to stick to the lower speed limit,” the report said.

The fourth option outlined in the report was about the creation of wooden mat paths. This option speaks to the need for more all-weather roads to serve small and rural communities in the Far North. The report said many existing winter roads do not last long enough and with climate change, most winter roads will be out in weeks instead of months. This would be especially important in areas with wetlands and muskeg.

This would make mat roads viable, the report said, because they have a lower environmental impact than traditional gravel roads and are much more expensive to build and maintain.

The report concluded that the Ontario government should explore opportunities to improve safety and commit to more funding for research.

“To improve road safety in the North, the Ontario government should implement proven smart road technologies on many sections of highways. In addition, government support is needed for more research and testing to help develop equally promising but less proven road construction techniques.”

This is the second report in as many months that NPI recommends changes to government policy to improve highways in northern Ontario. A report released in September – Saving lives and money: 2 + 1 roads — He spoke of the importance of the main dual carriageway in the north in a movement aimed at saving lives.

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