Enjoy an unspoiled northern experience.
To The McGregor Bay Associate Board:
I am writing in response to the installation of “slow” signs in Copper Mine Channel, Blasted Rock and Ragged Rock Channel. We have observed a visceral reaction to the signs from a large number of people which teaches us that something is wrong.
There are two issues at play here:
1: Are the installed sign in keeping with the aesthetic values of our members and friends.
2: Are the signs warranted, are they in the correct location and will they produce safety benefits?
Regarding item one, most will agree that the signs are obtrusive. Many argue that the way the signs have been placed contravene our mission statement --“To protect and enhance the environment of McGregor Bay, to encourage and promote the respectful enjoyment of its unique natural setting, and to represent the interests of all of its residents and other stakeholders.”
There is no question that we can make improvements on the aesthetic front. Would it not be better to use signed navigational buoys? This is the normal way of doing things when it comes to marine safety. No permanent damage would be done to the landscape and the Board has flexibility in deciding how long they should remain in place during a given season.
The second item is a much more complex issue. Safety is relative and not absolute. My expertise happens to be in transportation safety. Until my retirement last year, I was Director of Vehicle Safety Analytics at the University of Michigan. In that role I advised the Federal Government on vehicle safety matters and provided technical evidence and research results to support public policy and regulatory decisions. I am presently a consult to various auto manufacturers, AAA, and other bodies and I sit on a number of National Academy of Science committees with a view to safety. It is with this background that the following comments are made.
When examining safety concerns, there is a standard protocol that is followed. The key questions are:
A. Is a particular safety concern real and does the data support the opinion?
B. What countermeasures might be appropriate?
C. Will the countermeasures be effective?
D. Does a cost benefit analysis support action?
E. What might the unintended consequences be of a particular countermeasure?
Consider point A – everyone would probably agree that the south end entrance to Coppermine is a high risk location. It is easy to understand that it would be seen as a good location for a sign. But will it be effective (point C). There is an argument that choke points like Coppermine are inherently safe because people understand the risk and for the most part act with heightened caution. In road design it would be the equivalent of a traffic calming feature used in place of signs (more effective). Such conditions can make signs redundant. It is safe to say that those who do not respect choke points will not likely respect signs.
Regarding the magnitude of the safety problem, I am uncertain about our boat safety record in McGregor Bay. How many serious accidents have we had? What were the circumstances? Where did they occur. Are accidents randomly dispersed or are they occurring in the same location? Are they increasing in frequency? Would “Slow” signs have prevented the incidents?
Take for example the reference to a pregnant woman being tossed out of a boat. Understanding what actually happened will be instructive. Was her boat in a collision with another boat? Or was she tossed out because of the wake from a boat? What kind of watercraft was she in? Did the accident occur at a choke point, in a channel or elsewhere? Did it occur where signs are presently located? Would a “Slow” sign have changed the outcome?
The message is that accidents that are used to justify action need to be relevant to the proposed countermeasure. For example, being ejected from cars during crashes is related to seatbelt use and not vehicle speed.
Now let’s explore point E “unintended consequences” – As we all know slow moving boats can throw up very big wakes and many boaters are oblivious to this. They slow down to be kind but forget that they are casting a large wake. This obviously puts others at risk. So depending on what we are trying to achieve will affect our signage. “Slow” is intended to reduce the risk of crashes while “no wake” will reduce the risk of swamping.
So we can see that risks exist on all fronts and safety is not absolute. And yes there are risks even if we put up signs.
After thinking about this as objectively as I can, and absent of any new information and data that might be out there (anecdotes are not data) the safety case for signs exists but based on the evidence available the case is far from compelling. Furthermore, “Slow” signs have potential for unintended consequences that have their own safety risk.
Clearly it is the responsibility of the Board to weigh these matters and affect solutions that are justifiable to not only its members but to all users of this very special place. To that end I would like to put my hand up to volunteer my time to help provide some technical support, expertise and input to help the Board find a practical resolution to this problem that can be more generally accepted by all.