Northern lights thrill, but rural driving to see aurorae can be dangerous: Manitoba RCMP – Winnipeg

While it can be a thrill to get out of the city to catch a glimpse of the northern lights, Manitobans need to do it in a safer way, say RCMP.

Sgt. Paul Manaigre told 680 CJOB complaints have been flowing in since late February, not just from concerned drivers meeting higher-than-usual numbers of vehicles on rural roads, but property owners as well.

Manaigre said crime-conscious rural residents have been calling in reports of suspicious vehicles, which in many cases turn out to be Winnipeggers seeking out a sight of the aurorae.

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“These people aren’t sure what these vehicles are doing — whether they’re stalking their property — and then when the police locate them, they’re actually discovering these people are out and about from the city,” he said.

Manaigre said police discourage people from getting out of their cars when trying to spot the lights, and said to put on your hazard lights if you’re on the side of the road. Not only can exiting a vehicle at night be dangerous, but hanging out on the roadside could also net you a traffic ticket.

“If you’re seeing a tremendous volume of cars parked on roadways, that’s probably going to be the issue that could find someone getting ticketed,” he said.

“If they’re parked improperly, if they’re posing a danger to motorists, that’s probably what we’re going to look for.”

Click to play video: '‘We’ve lost something very special’: friend of students killed in Manitoba crash'

‘We’ve lost something very special’: friend of students killed in Manitoba crash

‘We’ve lost something very special’: friend of students killed in Manitoba crash – Feb 19, 2021

Photographer Kyle Didur told 680 CJOB he was out on the weekend trying to shoot pictures of the lights when he got a call from a friend who had been in an accident nearby.

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“A friend of mine who lives in the Interlake area was travelling past Oak Hammock Marsh and ended up getting in a T-bone accident with some people who had been viewing the lights out in the area,” Didur said.

“When I got there, I was simply astounded at how many cars I saw lined up on the road. … It was almost like when a sporting event lets out and everyone tries to leave downtown. I would say it was probably 50, at least, lined up.

“It’s not a very prudent idea to stand in the dark on the side of the highway. … People are just not using their head or their common sense.”

A trip out of the city to catch the northern lights proved fatal for a trio of university students in February.

Aranoor Azad Chowdhury, Risul Badhon and Al Numan Aditta, all 23, were killed on Highway 7 just south of Arborg on Feb. 18.

The students, who were also roommates, were involved in a head-on crash that also sent a woman to hospital. They had been part of a larger group that had headed out to catch the aurorae.

Click to play video: 'Capturing the northern lights'

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Capturing the northern lights – Feb 18, 2021

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