Last year at this time I wrote a post about how treacherous the driving was on the southern leg of highway 401 in Ontario. Aptly named “Carnage Alley”, it has been the site of some pretty horrific crashes.
To make matters worse, parts of the 40l along this southern leg have been under construction. For 20 kilometre stretches, the highway is down to one lane, bordered by concrete barriers. This creates a bottleneck of traffic along an already busy section of highway.
Unfortunately for me, driving on this highway is a necessity in order to visit my father, who lives in a retirement home in Amherstburg, a small town some 200 kilometres away. Not one to push my luck, I restrict my visits to Sundays, when there’s less traffic and fewer 18-wheelers. This past Sunday I made the trip down, leaving first thing in the morning. My father and I had a nice visit and I left by midafternoon, thankful that my drive down was uneventful and hopeful that the trip back would be similarly peaceful.
About 70 kilometres outside of Amherstburg, the traffic slowed to a stop. Shit, I thought; an accident. I and the other drivers peered anxiously in our rearview mirrors, hoping the guy behind us didn’t rear-end us before we made our way off the highway. Thankfully everyone was paying attention. I said a quick prayer for the unlucky driver(s) and hoped they were ok.
Our caravan of vehicles followed two large 18-wheelers off the highway and into town. (During a detour, always follow a trucker. They’re usually the only ones who know where they’re going.) We followed them about 40 kilometres to the next highway ramp, which was in the neighbouring town of Chatham. The ramp was open for business and mercifully past the construction zone. I got back on the highway and hoped that was the worst of it.
When I got home, I googled “401 highway closure”, curious about the accident for which I and many others were diverted. Apparently it was one of three, all occuring within a few hours of the other. The first one was the one for which I was diverted, and involved several vehicles. There were minor injuries. The second one was an hour later, 40 kilometres ahead but going west, in the opposite direction from me. The third was the worst. Apparently stopped for the second accident, drivers in the westbound lane of the SAME ramp which an hour earlier I took to get back ON the highway were rear-ended by an inattentive driver. A woman and her son were killed.
I ended my trip vowing I would find an alternate route home. It might take longer, but at least I would arrive alive.