Security of the road
According to the study of health Côte-Nord 2005 done by the Agency of health and social services of Quebec, 43% of North shore people says to feel unsecure on the road 138, 61% of the transport industry workers says the same. Also the survey asked the sureties the reason, 48% said it was due to the configuration of the road, often outside of norms. The agency of health and social services calculate the average of people insecure about the road and 50% since 1995 find it unsafe.
Already a few measures were done to secures the road 138, but the balance sheet of death and serious accident just can't seem to go down. Also the truck-trailers just keep increasing on the road, 26% from 2009 to 2011, and soon the "Plan Nord" will make it increase considerably.
The bottom of the Tadoussac hill: a high risk zone
This hill has a steep slope (up to 10%) one and a half kilometer long; it crosses an inhabited area of the village of Tadoussac and ends in the Saguenay river by passing over the pier of the ferry-boats.
The mechanical problem of a vehicle, the malaise of a driver or inclement weather conditions would suffice to transform a vehicle, particularly one of the 1000 truck-trailers which transport dangerous materials on this hill every month, into an actual bomb. In effect,occupants of the vehicles waiting at the bottom of the hill get out to stretch their legs while other vehicles are exiting the ferry. During peak traffic periods when the waiting lines go beyond the hill itself, or as soon as a dozen vehicles waiting for the ferry have accumulated, the entrance to the distress lane for vehicles with problems is obstructed. Thus making the worst scenario hardly avoidable.
The Ferry Fever
All regular users of the ferry service at Tadoussac know the syndrome described by coroner Dr. Samson. This syndrome, fatal for some, results from the barely suppressed aggressive behaviour of a driver who is otherwise careful on the road. This aggressive behaviour is explained by the restraints imposed on the driver before, during or after crossing the Saguenay. The description of this syndrome corresponds closely to the experience of regular users of the ferry.
Letter to the minister of transport by the deputy of Saguenay, june 2001:
« This syndrome, dangerous for the person who has it, can have diverse repercussions for other drivers in the form of fatal accidents, serious injuries, minor injuries or material damage. Drivers who meet each other in either direction on both sides of the ferry can have this syndrome simultaneously and by this fact, greatly increase their risk of accidents. »
You can consult the coroner Arnaud Samson report following the accidental death of Mr Armand Turbis de Havre Saint-Pierre: coroner_2001 (645Kb) and a letter of the ex-deputy Gabriel-Yvan Gagnon to Mr Guy Chevrette, ex-Minister for transport, on the ferry fever Tadoussac-Bay-Ste-Catherine: gagnon_2001(130Kb)
This syndrome greatly explains the death rate, more than 3 times higher than the provincial average, on both sides of the Saguenay on the highway 138. However, several other factors come into play.
Factors aggravating the "ferry fever"
described by coroner Arnaud Samson on the funnel section from La Malbaie to Les Escoumins
- An additional increase in the clientele foreseen (Naturam Study) and in future clientele (Labrador and North Shore projects, aluminium plants, hydroelectric plants and an end predicted to the Canada-American disagreement over softwood lumber)
- Dangers generated by the waiting lines at the ferries, by the circulation of pedestrians among the waiting vehicles and those who arrive at the end of the waiting line, by the traffic difficulty of the people in the villages on both sides of the Saguenay, by the imprecise definition of responsibilities as to the management of these long waiting lines particularly at the height of the tourist season
- Maritime dangers related to the increase in the numbers of vessels and small craft circulating at the mouth of the Saguenay and in the area to weather conditions on the water, more particularly the fog in summer which prevents the use of a third ferry and the ice and winds during the winter which prevent the ferries from tying up, and which occasionally blows them into the St. Lawrence or rips them from their moors during loadings and unloadings, thus requiring ice breakers from the Canadian Coast Guard. The opportunity study underlines in part this reality
« On the other hand the vessels must take into consideration the alternative currents of the tides, strong winds channelled by the corridor of the Saguenay at 40 to 70 knots (60 to 100 km/h), fog which complicates the approaches to the docks and maritime traffic which travels perpendicular to the course of the ferries. All these navigation conditions are factors which can delay the ferry crossing on the Saguenay River or the approach and docking manoeuvres. During the winter with a northeast wind and a rising tide, ice from the St. Lawrence River accumulates between the two shores of the Saguenay and can complicate the crossing. In the spring, the ice melting upstream sometimes brings down large ice pans which obstruct the course of the ferry. »
- Irritation of the drivers as to the maintenance of their vehicle or their clothes during the maritime crossing; narrow spaces between the vehicles, closeness of heavy-duty vehicles often covered with dust or mud, restricted manoeuvring space. More than half of the AEU (automobile equivalent units)6 transported by the eight ferries of the Quebec Ferry Society are done at Tadoussac. Several incidents are reported here each year
- Circulation of the users of the ferries in sometimes disturbing conditions during strong winds when sea spray covers their vehicle or splashes the passengers. These situations are particularly hard during the winter.
- Detour by the Town of Saguenay by truckers from Quebec, Montreal or the region who prefer to make a long detour during which time they are paid for each kilometre travelled rather than waiting the night at the dock for which they receive no salary. Two fatal accidents which occurred between Bergeronnes and Tadoussac in the fall of 2002 involved these truckers who would not have made this long detour during the night if there had been a bridge.
The dangers and irritants aforementioned add to the effects of the "ferry fever" described by coroner Dr. Arnaud Samson; impatience of the drivers, risk-taking to arrive in time for the boat, attempts to get out of the string of traffic caused by the long line of vehicles exiting from the ferry etc.
The sum of the dangers and irritants added to the fatigue of a long trip aggravates the danger of the road section between La Malbaie and Les Escoumins. This is what explains why the rate of deaths and seriously injured is clearly higher here than on the dangerous section of highway 175 between Quebec and Saguenay (Chicoutimi) and why the death rate per 100 mkt is more than 3 times higher than the average on the highways of Quebec.
*Two new mega ferries...
By referring to studies done by the Ministry of Transport and to an analysis of recent deaths attributable to waiting at the ferry and to the other factors, whether independent or related to the "ferry fever" itself.
The Bridge Society estimates that more than 50% of deaths and seriously injured could be avoided by the construction of a bridge and its approaches.
Some of these factors, seen by non-users of the ferry service, could seem insignificant or fraught with an emotional perception like the syndrome of "ferry fever" itself. However, the regular users of the ferry service and the people of the North Shore know this reality and the costs in life, injuries and other losses for their communities. The safety of the users of the road is a major concern and one that can't be ignored for the crossing of the Saguenay at Tadoussac. With the increase in traffic, the problem will intensify.