Less than two weeks after a head-on collision left four people dead, police caught and charged a woman for driving the wrong way down the Perimeter Highway — in the same area of the fatal accident — while impaired.
Debra Vandekerkhove spotted a small red vehicle travelling west in the eastbound lane Sunday morning. Vandekerkhove had turned off Lagimodiere Boulevard onto the Perimeter at about 7:50 a.m. and noticed people in front of her were slowing down. She looked to her left, saw the misplaced vehicle and started video recording.
"Everybody was honking and flashing (their lights)," she said.
Vandekerkhove's video shows cars swerving out of the red Chevrolet Aveo’s way. The intruder squeezes between trucks and semi-trailers, swapping left and right lanes. At the intersection with St. Anne's Road, someone gets out of their vehicle to motion to the Aveo's driver, who continues travelling in the wrong direction.
"Every time the semis were coming towards (her)... everyone on the opposite side (of the boulevard) going the correct way was moving right over to the shoulder because we were expecting a crash," Vandekerkhove said.
Several people on Vandekerkhove's side of the road were keeping pace with the red car, trying to alert the driver to the dangerous situation. When it blew through the St. Mary's Road intersection, Vandekerkhove called 911. The RCMP had already been informed, an operator told her.
"You're just watching it happen, and you just hope that it's not going to be tragic," she said. "I was afraid that (she) was going to kill somebody."
RCMP stopped the 35-year-old Winnipegger near the intersection with Provincial Road 330, which leads to La Salle, at about 8:05 a.m. The driver's blood-alcohol reading was twice the legal limit, police said, adding she faces several charges related to impaired driving.
"Thank God it was daytime, so people could see (her) coming and were able to react," said RCMP Sgt. Paul Manaigre. "If it were nighttime, there would've been a collision."
On Aug. 21, a 26-year-old Winnipeg woman was travelling west in an eastbound lane on the Perimeter at about 2:30 a.m. and collided head-on with a van driven by a Steinbach man, whose wife and mother-in-law — who'd just arrived from Germany — were passengers. All four people were killed.
Manaigre wouldn't offer further details or theories on the reason the woman was driving on the wrong side of the highway.
Brian Smiley, MPI's media relations co-ordinator, said roughly 50 per cent of all collisions leading to death or serious injury are because of distracted driving. Impairment accounts for close to 30 per cent, and speed about 20 per cent.
Ron Janzen, the president and CEO of Safety Services Manitoba, said drivers who face oncoming traffic — even though they're in the correct lane — should brake hard and move to the right-hand shoulder as soon as possible.
"If (speed) can be reduced in any way before the collision, (it) will make the impact obviously less severe," he said. "In any case, you never want to swerve to the left to avoid a collision, because you might then be in the path of oncoming traffic."
People who are witnessing a vehicle driving in the wrong lane should call 911 as soon as possible and provide as much detail as they can, Janzen said.
Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.