By Chad Ingram
The weekend before last I was driving northbound on Highway 35, just north of Carnarvon, with a long, steady stream of southbound traffic in the other lane. As I came over a rise in the hilly stretch between the hamlet and the Beech River, coming toward me in my lane was a large, black pickup truck, boat in tow, the driver attempting to make a pass where he should not have been.
I slammed on my brakes, coming to a complete stop, and remained stationary. The other driver, realizing he was not going to make the pass he was attempting, slowed, and had to be let back into the southbound lane by another driver, since the line of traffic was so thick. I just sat there staring from behind my steering wheel.
Just minutes earlier during that same trip, I’d passed the site of a collision on the highway in Minden. It looked relatively minor, and was fresh enough that a citizen was directing traffic as police and EMS were showing up. There were a few collisions that weekend, including one that was fatal, and there have been a number since.
July and August are of course boom time in Haliburton County, its year-round population of some 18,000 ballooning to 60,000 or more, depending on the day, with a massive influx of seasonal residents and visitors. Its normally quiet roads can become densely packed with vehicles, many of those vehicles seemingly in a big rush to get wherever they are going.
Driving well above 100 kilometres an hour is of course common practice on multi-lane, 400-series highways, and aggressive driving in the city is basically necessary if one hopes to get anywhere at all. However, those techniques don’t always translate well to the roads and “highways” of the Haliburton Highlands, which are not paved to the same level as multi-lane highways, and, with the exception of a few stretches of Highway 35, are two-lane roads where drivers sharing the same stretch of asphalt are headed in opposite directions. What would amount to a sideswipe on a 400-series highway can become a head-on collision on a two-lane highway.
Certainly, traffic to and from cottage country seems to only get thicker each year. I spent part of the civic long weekend southwest of the GTA, and driving back to the county Monday night, was astounded by the unceasing lines of city-bound cars along highways 48, 12 and 35. Thousands and thousands of them.
With such volumes of traffic, it’s understandable that people want to do their best to minimize their commute time. However, moving up a few spaces in an unimaginably long line of cars, or shaving a few minutes off a two- or three-hour journey really isn’t worth the damage that can come with risky manoeuvres on two-lane highways.