A suspected drunk driver amazingly escaped with just minor injuries Wednesday after his SUV slammed into a large farm vehicle and burst into flames on Highway 3.
The crash happened less than two hours after provincial transportation minister Steven Del Duca told a Windsor audience the notoriously dangerous highway was “top of mind” for his government, but didn’t make any commitments to enhance it.
Clifford Herdman said he was hauling grain in three large trailers down Highway 3 around 1:45 p.m. when a Jeep Cherokee slammed into the back of the last trailer. Herdman said the traffic was light at the time and there were open lanes, so he wasn’t sure why the person didn’t just go around his slow moving tractor.
“That guy just ran into the back of me out of the blue as I was coming down the road,” said Herdman.
“I heard the big bang, thought I blew a tire. I hit the clutch right away to stop and then I seen this. I got out and the car was on fire.”
The two-vehicle crash happened between Walker Road and County Road 34 in Tecumseh. Police said a large farm tractor hauling three wagons full of grain was headed east in an area where the highway widens when a white Jeep SUV rear-ended it.
“There wasn’t that much traffic at the time either,” said Herdman. “He could have got around me.”After striking the last of the three trailers, the Jeep caught fire. The driver, who was alone in the Jeep, escaped from the burning vehicle under his own power.
Police said he appeared to be drunk, so officers arrested him. OPP Const. Jim Root said Wednesday the Jeep driver is “in custody for impaired driving.”
“Obviously coming into the holiday season, as we do all year around, we encourage the public to not drink before they get behind the wheel of a vehicle,” said Root. “Drinking, drugs and other distractions obviously end up causing accidents and we end up seeing fatalities. We’re just lucky today that nobody was killed.”
The crash happened shortly after Del Duca, Ontario’s Minister of Transportation, made a noon-hour speech in Windsor that touched on Highway 3 safety issues. He said the province has finalized a study to update design recommendations for the controversial highway, where there have been repeated destructive and fatal crashes.
The study, called the Transportation Environmental Study Report Addendum, will be have a 30-day public review period starting Thursday. The province said publishing the study and receiving environmental clearance for amendments to the plan is an “important next step.” After that, the project can be “considered” for funding.
After the 30 days, Del Duca said he expects to be back in the area to provide an update. He told the audience he has heard the concerns from media, municipal leaders, businesses and others “loud and clear.”
“I’ve seen first hand how important Highway 3 is both as an economic link but also as a crucial commuter corridor,” said Del Duca. “It’s those twin imperatives of making sure that we maintain safety on that particular corridor but at the same time helping all of the burgeoning economic development opportunities, particularly in the agriculture and agri-food sectors, get their products out safety as well.”
Source: Windsor Star