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Northern Ontario highway closures are inconvenient but necessary: ​​OPP

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OPP Superintendents Mike Maville and Todd Proulx reiterated the importance of closing highways for police investigations in a speech to community leaders this week

There appears to be no way around road closures, OPP Superintendents Mike Maville and Todd Proulx told northern Ontario community leaders this week.

The two police officers spoke about the issue Wednesday during the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities convention at the Holiday Inn and Conference Center in Sudbury.

While they are aware of the inconvenience that closures lasting several hours can cause – in some cases up to five days during extreme weather events – they say there is not much they can do.

The reason for closing highways during extreme weather events is fairly simple, Maville said, adding that it poses a safety risk.

Based on an experience he had on a highway near Wawa, Maville described a white-out situation in which he could not see the road in front of him.

When collisions occur, the OPP owes it to motorists and their families to conduct a full investigation, which can take hours, he said.

“When someone has lost a loved one due to murder or a nefarious act, the police are expected to investigate fully,” he said, adding that the same applies to motor vehicle incidents.

Ignoring the concept of motor vehicle “accidents,” he said, “Every collision is someone's fault.” Even if it's just a minor fender-bender, there's a reason for it, and we owe it to the family and everyone involved, to conduct a proper and thorough investigation.”

The OPP has six reconstructionists in the Northeast region who must first travel to the scene of the motor vehicle accident and then conduct a thorough investigation, which can take hours.

Any collision classified as a “benchmark collision” may require police to close a highway to preserve evidence for an investigation. That includes “anything involving a serious personal injury that could be life-altering,” Maville said, and not things like minor fender benders.

However, when a police officer or a school bus is involved, an investigation is required regardless of the severity of the collision – a “relatively broad” range of incidents, he added.

“We never want to close a highway,” Maville said. “We understand that these transportation arteries are very important … but if they are closed, it is for a reason.”

The inconvenience of highway closures was not lost on the two speakers, and Maville noted that if Highway 144 between Sudbury and Gogama is closed, motorists would be left with the choice of waiting for the highway to open or returning to where they came from.

In the northeast OPP region, superintendents said there have been eight fatal motor vehicle crashes on roads so far this year, compared to 12 this time last year.

However, slightly more personal injuries have been reported on the road, with 166 reported year to date compared to 157 in 2023.

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.