Canada

Cambridge man recalls seeing wrong-way driver on Hwy 401: ‘It could have taken a really bad turn’

A Cambridge man is recalling the terrifying experience of seeing a driver travelling head-on towards traffic on Highway 401.

Jakob Weisz says he and his wife were heading home from the Ayr area on Sunday. They had just driven onto the highway from the Cedar Creek Road on-ramp when they noticed a car going the wrong way on the other side of the median. 

“I first noticed the car on the other side of the median pretty much right away when I merged and it took me a couple of seconds to kind of process what was happening,” Weisz said.

He said he had recently read about two recent fatal collisions of drivers going the wrong way on Highway 401, including when four people were killed on the 401 in Whitby, including two grandparents and an infant, for a driver travelling in the wrong direction during a police pursuit on April 29.

Earlier Sunday morning, OPP also reported a 28-year-old Milton woman had died after a wrong-way crash on the 401 in Milton. 

Weisz says his wife took a video of the vehicle to potentially help police.

But, he said, as they continued to watch the driver go the wrong way, they became very concerned.

“We were kind of awestruck just watching because at any moment it could have taken a really bad turn,” he said. “Me and my wife were preparing mentally for the possibility that there was going to be a multi-fatal crash happening any second.”

Driver taken to hospital for assessment

Sgt. Kerry Schmidt with the Ontario Provincial Police’s highway safety division said officers were able to stop the driver.

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“The 55-year-old woman in the vehicle was taken to hospital for assessment. At this point, charges have not been laid but I would say they’re pending. We’re just waiting for the completion of the investigation,” Schmidt said.

“Obviously a tragedy averted. I saw the video as well, a pretty terrifying situation.”

Driving in the wrong direction is a dangerous situation, but Schmidt says they get calls about it on a regular basis. 

“Unfortunately, very often drivers are either impaired or they’re confused or disoriented and unsure of their surroundings,” Schmidt explained.

He said it can be an extremely stressful moment for other drivers, too.

“It is an absolute potential tragedy that could unfold in front of them,” he said. “By the time you realize there’s a vehicle in your path on a controlled access highway like this, very often there’s very little time to react or to avoid a collision.”

A driver seen travelling in the wrong direction on Highway 401 through Ayr on Sunday. (Jakob Weisz)

‘One of the highest priority calls’

Weisz and his wife say they immediately called 911 when they saw the driver continuing in the wrong direction. Something police say was the right decision. 

“That is one of the highest priority calls that we get and when those happen, officers are activated immediately. They respond to that location and try to intercept that vehicle and stop it before it causes the crash,” Schmidt said.

He adds that if a driver finds they are travelling the wrong way on a highway, they should immediately attempt to safely pull onto the shoulder and turn on the car’s forward flashing lights, then call police for help.

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