Teen seriously injured on stretch of Sask. highway 'thrilled' about planned safety improvements
PRINCE ALBERT -- Lexi Zbaraschuk has been advocating for improved safety measures on Highway 3 west of Prince Albert after she suffered life-threatening injuries during a car crash in November 2018.
She says “there were no words that could describe” how happy she was when she saw that the provincial government is planning on twinning the portion of the highway where the accident occurred.
“I was smiling so much I could barely talk, that’s how excited I was. I kind of did this happy dance around my room and I texted my family all about it and all my friends,” she said.
Zbaraschuk was 16 years old when she was crossing the highway after picking up her car at R&W Custom Collision. She was the lone occupant of the car, but her dad was driving a separate vehicle in front of her.
Her car stalled on a sheet of ice and a semi-truck T-boned the driver’s side.
Zbaraschuk said she can’t remember anything after her car stalling. She was in hospital for almost a month, and continues to cope with the lingering effects from her injuries.
“The back of my skull shattered like a spider web, my face was broken in some areas,” she described.
“Both of my collar bones broke, the left one was shattered in three locations and then the right one was broken just in the middle. Then, I cracked six ribs on the left and one on the right and my heart was displaced half an inch.”
Zbaraschuk said the crash could have been prevented if the highway was double-laned, saying the semi may have been able to switch lanes or she could have stopped on pavement and went across once the semi had passed.
The Government of Saskatchewan’s 2021-22 budget released on Tuesday contains more than $800 million for highway improvements.
Highway 3 West is set to have double lanes at a roughly eight kilometre stretch from Prince Albert to the Shell River bridge. Design is scheduled for this year, with the contract being tendered in the fall and construction complete by 2022.
“We got listening to the people who are around P.A. and Nadine Wilson (Saskatchewan Rivers MLA) was a great advocate for ‘Maybe we should do something more,’” said Highways Minister Fred Bradshaw.
“We’re always looking at safety, and the more she talked, and the more we heard from other people, we decided that it would be best to twin that section.”
It’s also welcome news to Shellbrook Mayor Amund Otterson. He said town council sent a letter to the Ministry of Highways a month and a half ago calling for twinning.
He cited how busy the highway is, partly because people travel from Shellbrook to Prince Albert for work and vice versa.
“Some residents were saying ‘There’s been a recent fatality. Maybe the town council could influence the government somewhat,’” he said.
In December, a four-year-old boy and a 30-year-old man – both with connections to Shellbrook – died in a head-on collision on the stretch of highway that will be twinned. The man was the boy’s uncle.
“You put yourself in the shoes of those parents and you just can’t imagine,” said Otterson.
Last summer, the province announced it will also be adding three sets of passing lanes on Highway 3, between 10 kilometres west of Prince Albert to Shellbrook.