NWT releases Highway 3 tractor-trailer collision data

Bison block Highway 3 north of Fort Providence on August 2, 2020
Bison block Highway 3 north of Fort Providence on August 2, 2020. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio

The NWT government has published a record of the 44 collisions involving tractor-trailers that took place on Highway 3 between 2010 and 2019.

Two of the collisions were fatal, killing four people. The breakdown of those accidents was shared by infrastructure minister Diane Archie after Monfwi MLA Jackson Lafferty highlighted the issue.

The list of collisions does not include data from 2020, which is still being collated, nor data from accidents that did not involve tractor-trailers.

The most recent fatality along that stretch of highway – which is not yet reflected in the data – occurred on December 31, 2020. A man got out of a southbound vehicle and was struck by a tractor-trailer travelling in the other direction.



“In 2020, preliminary data shows that there were two fatal collisions involving tractor trailers for the segments of highway, but the full scope of that data is not yet available,” reads a letter from Archie to Lafferty tabled in the legislatue this week.

Archie committed her department to reviewing speed limits along the Behchokǫ̀ to Yellowknife stretch of Highway 3.

She also, however, noted speed was not the only contributing factor.

“Other factors such as drinking and driving, roadside parking, poor visibility, longer periods of darkness, increased truck traffic during the winter, fatigue, and mechanical failure of vehicles may play a role,” her letter read.



Most collisions between Fort Providence and Behchokǫ̀

Thirty-one of the collisions between 2010 and 2019 happened between Fort Providence and Behchokǫ̀. The other 13 took place between Behchokǫ̀ and Yellowknife.

Of the 44 accidents in the past 10 years, 14 – almost a third of them – involved bison, but only one of those caused an injury to a person.

In addition to the four fatalities that resulted from head-on collisions, there were a total of 12 injuries in the same time period.

But Archie told Lafferty the number of collisions between Behchokǫ̀ and Yellowknife has declined 76 percent since 1989, even though there is now more than three times the volume of traffic on the road.

The minister did not specify whether there was a similar decrease in collisions between Fort Providence and Behchokǫ̀.

When distance is factored in, the Behchokǫ̀-Yellowknife leg of the highway sees slightly fewer accidents than the remainder of the road.

The Behchokǫ̀-Yellowknife stretch of road is 102 km, which means there was one accident per 7.8 km of highway. The Behchokǫ̀ to Fort Providence stretch is 226 km, meaning one accident for every 7.3 km.