Updated: May 23, 2021
A low-cost innovative sign solution reduced fatal crashes by 100%.
The bridge that crosses the mighty Fraser River from Hope to the north, a critical gateway for all travellers with all types of vehicles. Many of which were industry-rich Heavy Commercial Vehicles for logging, mining, and finished lumber -- all merchandise bound for the rest of the province and shipping at the ports in Vancouver.
It was serviced for many years by a small narrow, functional bridge. It was slow going -- a narrow passing where many mirrors were knocked off, but nobody was killed.
With a new bridge, came new problems.
When the Province of BC built a new, larger bridge with state of the art engineering to facilitate the increase in traffic, it was deemed one of the best improvements in BC. Unfortunately, it became an invitation for drivers to drive in excess of the posted speed and feel more comfortable to do so.
The southbound traffic descends from north to south into Hope BC, at the end of the bridge is a tight curve to the right into the town.
This proved to be extremely problematic for Heavy Commercial Vehicles as they were descending southbound, the grade picked up their speed from 50 km/h (posted) to 70 km/h and higher. Once they reached the right curve at the end of the bridge, they would lose control and drift left of centre into the northbound lane, when they attempted to steer right, their load would shift and they would roll, killing anyone in their path.
Many of the Heavy Commercial Vehicles involved were trucks hauling bales of paper products headed to Vancouver for processing into other paper products. These bales would shift and the momentum would cause the truck to roll once over correcting was attempted. Next was finished lumber as a contributing vehicle and similarly the load would shift and spill, killing anyone in its path.
I worked on this project with Hope's RCMP Collision Analyst (a now vacant position) and we reviewed the contributing factors:
Excess speed was a factor
Heavy Commercial Vehicles were involved
High-volume loads were a factor
With these in mind, we crafted recommendations to improve loading of the bales of paper, including strategic placement of the rolls and improved securing of the load.
The problem persisted.
Although these measures were implemented, the problem persisted and there needed to be better signage for speed reduction at this critical point enter Hope BC.
I approached the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure for consideration of an innovative speed warning sign overhead near the crash site. This had never been done in BC and they didn't seem very interested in looking into adding a new type of sign like this into their sign inventory, plus it hadn't been approved by the Transportation Association of Canada (TAC).
Once another similar fatal crash occurred, it heightened interest in considering this new sign and obtaining all the approvals.
It took approximately two years to complete this new sign installation with additional flashing lights that would alternate the direction of the flashers with higher speeds (see image below).
Prior to this Speed/Curve Warning Sign being installed there had been eight fatal crashes at this site. Since the sign was erected approximately 10 years ago, nobody has died since.
Since the sign was erected approximately 10 years ago, nobody has died since.