The province introduced a new wildlife detection system along a portion of the Trans Canada Highway near Salmonier Line last month, which began operating in mid October.
The pilot project attempts to appease the people in this province who are calling for government to do something, anything, to help protect drivers from moose, responsible for numerous deaths and highway collisions each year in this province.
While credit should be given to the provincial government for trying something, one has to wonder just how this system will work.
The $1.5-million pilot project uses break-beam technology to alert drivers when a large animal is in the zone that encompasses only 1.5 kilometres along the highway, on both the eastbound and westbound lanes.
Stop and think about that for a moment.
$1.5-million for 1.5 kilometres. If this project is successful, we will need an investment of $903-million to cover the entire island from St. John’s to Port aux Basques which is 903 kilometres of highway.
Is our government prepared to spend that kind of money on alerting drivers of moose on or near the highways? If not, why bother with the system? Isn’t it a moot point if the pilot project works but we can’t afford it?
And let’s look at how the system works.
Towers are installed every 200 yards in the 1.5 km zone, powered by solar panels. Hey, it sounds good, and looks like something from the TV show “Lost”... The beams run in a straight line between the towers and when both beams are broken, flashing lights at either entrance to the zone are triggered, warning drivers coming to the area that a large animal has entered that zone.
This is great if you are driving in the exact right spot to see the flashing lights, which will flash for about two minutes according to the provincial government’s press release. But what about if you just drove past the lights that can flash? There is still that 1.5-kilometre stretch where a moose may just be about to wander into, or just did as your vehicle passed the lights. How is the driver alerted then? Apparently the driver is not, and is out of luck if a moose shoots out from the woods at that particular time.
What if a moose wanders into the zone and triggers the flashing lights for two minutes? There is no guarantee the moose is going leave the zone in that two-minute span. Presumably, a moose can enter the zone, trigger the flashing lights at both ends of the 1.5 kilometre zone for two minutes, and then hang around undetected in the middle of the highway without any warning for the vehicles coming down the highway after the two minute flashing lights have gone off, unless of course, the moose wanders back through the sensors and triggers them again as it leaves the area.
$1.5-million dollars is a lot of money to spend on a project that doesn’t seem like a good idea anyway, or at least one that won’t work more effectively than that.
Why don’t we just slow down, warn other drivers by turning your own lights off and on when you know a moose is on the road (commonly used folk alarm - but be sure not to flash your high beams at oncoming traffic) and ALWAYS be aware a moose could be just in the bush, and may take a run towards your vehicle at any time. Drive as if it is a given that moose are hiding just out of sight waiting to cross the road.
Again, government should be commended for trying something, but this project seems a bit far-fetched. Are we really going to install this across the province? It is likely the powers that be are trying to appease a growing and very vocal group of residents in the province who are concerned about moose-vehicle accidents and government’s apparent lack of will to do anything about the issue until now.