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Unacceptable: The carnage on Highway 51

November 11, 2009
(My apologies for the long absence, I was having some technical problems and wasn’t able to log in here for a long time.) I am back though!
Highway 51 runs westwards for about 75 kilometres from Helsinki to Karjaa and on a daily basis is one of Finland’s busiest highways. From Helsinki to Kivenlahti in Espoo, the highway, also known as Länsiväylä, is double-laned and sees some 15,000-20,000 cars in its lanes every week day. The pace doesn’t slow much on weekends as highway 51 sees thousands of people heading out to their cottages in the spring and summer.
In mid-August a young woman became the latest victim when she lost her life on highway 51 near Kirkkonummi in what was described by an acquaintance (he is a volunteer fire fighter) as a 10-car pile-up. She was apparently preparing to turn left onto the highway from Tolsa when she was hit from behind by another larger vehicle and pushed into on-coming traffic. She didn’t have a chance. Condolences to her family and friends, in this time of grief.
For anyone who has driven on highway 51 on a daily basis between Kivenlahti in Espoo and Kirkkonummi, you might agree that it is a dangerous stretch of highway. It has been the subject of numerous letters to the editor of various newspapers and discussion boards on the internet over the years.
A report in the August 22 edition of Helsingin Sanomat reports that since 2000, more than 110 traffic accidents resulting in injuries and deaths have occurred on the stretch of road between Kivenlahti and Karjaa. Most of the deaths on highway 51 have occurred in a very concentrated stretch of highway. That is some 75 km and a lot of lives. Could it be that highway 51 is one the most, if not the most dangerous stretch of road in all of Finland? I posed the question to a fellow who has a website that describes various facts and figures about roads all over Finland. He reminded me that depending on the method of compiling statistics, even one major accident can skew the "reputation" of a road. He was referring to the horrific accident that happened in Konginkangas on March 19, 2004 in which 23 bus passengers died in a collision with a transport hauling paper rolls. And thus, that one accident could qualify the E4 (E75) highway as a very dangerous road.
The problem with highway 51? Well, there are a few:
  • Congestion brought on by the dozens of people who moved to Kirkkonummi in the earlier part of this decade when the building boom was in high swing. The majority of these folks drive to work in Helsinki or Espoo. Let me remind you that reports indicate between 15,000 and 20,000 cars use this stretch of highway on a daily basis. From memory (as I used to live in Kirkkonummi), I can think of four feeder roads to highway 51 that are a major problem, especially when drivers have to turn left towards Helsinki to get on to the highway: Tolsa, Porkkala, Jorvas and Masala/Sundsberg. My acquaintance concurred when we discussed it.
  • Highway 51 from Kivenlahti is only a two-lane road and has been on the development list for some time now and should have been doubled-lane (IMHO) when the influx of people to Kirkkonummi was occurring. The construction that is long overdue, will cause nothing but headaches for all of the people who need to contend with traffic on highway 51 on a daily basis. According to Tiehallinto, improvements to highway 51 will commence in 2010 and last until 2013.
Too little too late, perhaps, for the victims of horrendous accidents on this road. Wilted rose
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