Victim’s plea prompts council to review safety of intersections

City Hall

Cathy Dobson

A local woman’s emotional plea for traffic lights at two collision-prone Cathcart Boulevard intersections has prompted a new study.

Janette Riddell was seriously injured in a two-car crash at Cathcart and Indian Road nine months ago.

“It is your duty to protect the safety of your constituents,” Riddell told city council on July 12. “I implore you to allocate funding before more lives are impacted or lost.”

Riddell was heading home from work last Oct. 13 when her car was struck by another vehicle, driving her car into a concrete pole. The other driver claimed not to have seen the stop sign, she said.

Riddell still contends with a brain injury and multiple medical problems and can’t work, she said. And she has recurring nightmares that combine her crash with another that killed 10-year-old Jillian Keck just down the road at the intersection of Cathcart and Murphy Road in 2013.

Riddell witnessed the little girl being struck by an elderly driver as she walked across Murphy Road with a crossing guard.

“It was a horrifying scene,” Riddell said. “The memory of that fatality still haunts me.”

Hundreds of local residents demanded traffic lights at Cathcart and Murphy following Jillian’s death, but no action was taken.

A 2012 traffic study found insufficient traffic numbers and collisions to warrant a light, despite two elementary schools in the immediate area.

The city is currently considering “calming lanes” for Cathcart, but Riddell said that would only confuse drivers, and encourage some to use side streets that lack sidewalks.

Statistics she obtained from Sarnia Police indicate seven collisions occurred between March 2019 and the fall of 2020 at the intersection where the girl was killed.

Over the same time period, nine more were recorded at the Indian Road intersection where she was struck, Riddell said.

Coun. George Vandenberg said he lives near Cathcart and Indian and ran to assist the day she was injured. Another crash occurred at the same intersection on July 8, Vandenberg said.

“I share your concerns. I’ve almost been run over as I walked through that area.”

Coun. Mike Stark said his mother-in-law was a victim of a car crash at Cathcart and Indian.

“Coupled with yours, and the death of a child at Murphy, virtually everyone is asking when will lights go up,” Stark said.

Traffic lights for a full intersection cost $150,000 to $250,000, said David Jackson, Sarnia’s general manager of engineering and operations.

Ontario provides no funding. But Indian is a county road and Lambton could decide to contribute, he said.

Council voted unanimously for a staff report on the two intersections, with a report and recommendations to come back in September.

“That young girl who died was a relative of mine,” said Coun. Bill Dennis.  “I understand firsthand what her family went through… I am with you 150%.”

Riddell said later she hoped council would act immediately on her request. But she’s optimistic the study will conclude traffic lights are needed at both intersections.

“If I could make something good come from (my accident) it will help. I don’t want to see anyone else go through this.”