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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Cars and Danger

McGuinty raises concerns after latest highway crash

Canadian Press

TORONTO — A car can be as dangerous as "a loaded gun," and as much as the government has done to crack down on street racing and reckless driving, the responsibility ultimately lies in the hands of those behind the wheel, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said Tuesday.

Mr. McGuinty was commenting on a Monday morning crash on the busy Highway 400 that killed a truck driver and snarled commuter traffic until late that night.

Three men face a total of 11 charges in the crash, in which police blame speed and dangerous driving.

David Virgoe, 48, of Stroud, Ont., was identified Tuesday as the driver of the tractor-trailer who died in the crash. Mr. Virgoe leaves behind three children and five grandchildren.

Family members told the media Mr. Virgoe was a very safe and experienced driver who drove that stretch of highway each day.

The crash was the third major accident in four days on the busy north-south highway, and the second fatal one.

"There is no excuse for this kind of tragedy to unfold on Ontario highways," Mr. McGuinty said.

"We'll continue to talk to our police and ask them what it is more that we might do to make our highways safer, but at the end of the day there's one individual who sits behind the wheel in a car. It's like a loaded gun," Mr. McGuinty said at an auto industry funding announcement.

The Premier also said he has no intention of revisiting the issue of photo radar. He said the best advice the government has received is that photo radar won't help.

Prabhjit Multani, 20, and Nauman Nusrat, 19, the two men accused in Mr. Virgoe's death, appeared in Barrie court Tuesday and were remanded in custody pending a bail hearing set for Friday.

Witnesses said two or three cars were speeding and weaving in and out of traffic when one caused the tractor-trailer to lose control. The big rig ripped out a guardrail and careened back across the highway, tumbling down an embankment and into a ditch.

"This is happening every day on our highways and I hope our justice system pulls through and sends a message out," said Ontario Provincial Police Const. Dave Woodforde.

Drivers are hailing Mr. Virgoe as a hero for veering away from traffic and saving lives in the process.

"That truck driver decided at some point in a split second that he was going to save the lives of at least a dozen people on that highway," said Brian Patterson of the Ontario Safety League in an interview with Global TV.

"That guy's a hero in every measure — he's got to be commended for what he did because we would have had significantly higher carnage."

Standing beside Highway 400 early Tuesday, Const. Woodforde agreed that some drivers are failing to heed warnings to slow down on the highways.

"We are running a radar here (and) they're still not getting the message because we're clocking people at 125-130 kilometres an hour," he said.

"They just don't seem to get it."

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