Coroner recommends doubling lanes on Highway 20 near Rimouski, Que., following woman's death

A Quebec coroner is recommending a stretch of Highway 20 between Rimouski and Mont-Joli, Que. be widened to four lanes and include a median following the death of 28-year-old Arianne Dubé last November.

In her report on Dubé's death, Monique Tremblay found that Dubé was travelling on Highway 20 in eastern Quebec toward Mont-Joli with heavy traffic in both directions when the accident occurred.

Dubé, for an unknown reason, swerved out of her lane near Saint-Anaclet-de-Lessard, Que., narrowly missing another car, which ended up in the ditch on the south side of the highway.

"After this impact, Dubé also lost control of her vehicle, which ended up perpendicular to the two opposite westbound lanes," wrote Tremblay.

An oncoming vehicle was "unable to avoid Dubé's vehicle and collided violently with it."

The young woman died a few hours later at the Rimouski hospital.

Tremblay concluded that the accident may have been avoided if the highway had a median, separating the lanes.

She recommended Transports Québec proceed with the splitting of the expressway into four lanes separated by a median "to make this section of Highway 20 safe."

'Not the first fatal collision'

Tremblay cited the high number of accidents on the two-lane highway between 2004 and 2022, including more than 1,203 accidents and 25 fatal collisions.

"It's clear that the accident that claimed Dubé's life was not the first fatal collision to occur," wrote Tremblay.

"If this highway had been laid out with a median, Ms. Dubé might have had some leeway to react when she left her lane.… In the worst-case scenario, she would have swerved into the median and the fatal collision could have been avoided."

The coroner's recommendation includes doubling the highway lanes between Rimouski et Mont-Joli.
The coroner's recommendation includes doubling highway lanes between Rimouski and Mont-Joli. (Sébastien Ross/Radio-Canada)

On average, 8,100 vehicles travel the 35-kilometre stretch of Highway 20 between Rimouski and Mont-Joli each day. In the summer, this figure rises to 9,580, and on the stretch where the accident occurred, 11,000 vehicles pass daily.

Earlier this year, the Transport Ministry said a daily traffic volume in excess of 10,000 vehicles is necessary to "consider" adding more lanes.

A few days before Dubé's fatal collision, a petition was launched and sponsored by MNA for Matane-Matapédia Pascal Bérubé, calling on the ministry to double Highway 20's lanes between Rimouski and Mont-Joli. The petition was submitted to the National Assembly and garnered over 10,000 signatures.

Coupled with requests from local elected officials, the ministry agreed to launch a study on adding passing lanes to the highway. It does not, however, have the mandate to examine a potential doubling of the highway.

Local MNA calls on minister to act

This project was dismissed by Transport Minister Geneviève Guilbault, who was in the region just hours after the accident that claimed the life of Dubé.

"To date, there are no coroners' recommendations on the widening of Highway 20 between Mont-Joli and Le Bic," she said at the time, referring to a provincial park near Rimouski.

Guilbault's office said it will take time to analyze the report before commenting.

In a press release, Bérubé said the report justified his and the 10,000 signatories' request. He urged Guilbault to quickly plan for the widening of this section of the highway with four lanes and a median strip.

"Since the minister was waiting for this recommendation before taking action, I am now asking her to do what is necessary and to respond favourably, and quickly, to Coroner Monique Tremblay's recommendation," wrote Bérubé.