Updated: May 31, 2021
A dedicated task force was created to combat high fatal crashes among recreational travellers.
Skagit Bluffs: Beautiful but deadly.
The Hope Princeton Highway is provincial highway #3 and known as the Crowsnest Pass, and one of the oldest highways in the province. It opened in 1949 and considered a vital route to Alberta along the southern route of the province.
The section in this project area has two high mountain pass sections, one is Allison Pass near Manning Park and the second is Sunday Summit. Like most mountainous pass areas it is met with winding roads, tight corners and steep grades. Plus, it gets the most severe weather with large accumulations of snow.
This candidate highway had the second highest Casualty Crashes within my regional boundaries.
Crash stats from 1996-2004 revealed:
40 killed in 27 fatal collisions
939 injured in 569 non-fatal collisions
The data also revealed that the majority of collisions occurred on clear, dry days and dry road surfaces. Speed was over represented by twice as much as any other causal factor.
Travel to tragedy.
The highway had numerous roadside memorials at scenes where loved ones had died. This is an indication that families travel this highway frequently
and pay tribute each time they pass the scene. Many locations have multiple memorials which is always a deeper issue.
The data also revealed that most deaths occur in the summer months and indicative to the fact this is a major route for holiday travellers from the Vancouver region to the southern Okanagan region, a mecca for hot summer fun camping and boating. As well this highly sought after area is known for its recreation and heavy alcohol consumption, plus it has the highest alcohol crash rate in British Columbia.
Identifying the stakeholders.
From the town of Hope to Penticton & Osoyoos, it is approximately 2.5 hours and regularly sees impatient drivers travel at twice the posted speed in straight stretches.
The area mentioned in this project area is policed by two jurisdictions, the RCMP from Fraser Valley Traffic Services patrols east to Manning Park Lodge, then the RCMP from South Okanagan Traffic Services in Keremeos to Manning Park. As well the Integrated Road Safety Unit from both those areas assisted with enforcement.
This area is also serviced by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure from Chilliwack to Sunday Summit and from Penticton they are responsible for Sunday Summit to all points in the south Okanagan region.
These boundaries are also serviced by two separate Provincial Coroners Service investigators, one from the Chilliwack Region and one from Princeton. I included the Fraser Valley Coroners for this project because of their knowledge of high fatal collision sites and their ability to make recommendations change.
The main factors.
In my review of this highway and the sites listed as having a higher than normal fatal crashes, some of my findings included curve warning signs were at an unusual distance from the shoulder of the road, they were in poor condition and not visible to drivers. Also I noted for morning daytime eastbound travel to the Okanagan, they were in the heavy shade of the trees. As well in the early evening with the setting sun, the sun would stream through the pine trees and create a distracting flickering and make it impossible to see any signs.
This highway also had limited to no painted shoulder or centreline, as well most of the delineation markers were knocked over and had not been maintained.
The Three E's Approach
Increased emphasis on Line Painting
Larger 4 x 4 highly reflective delineation along the corridor
Higher reflective Curve Warning Signs and cantilevered over to the road edge
Higher reflective Starburst was used to highlight high risk areas
Shoulder and Centreline rumble strips where evidence of head on or sideswipe and off road right or left collisions occurred
Passing Lanes were installed more frequently
All warning signs were replaced with higher reflective material
Higher roadside barricade at cliffside locations
LED Chevrons that are constantly illuminated
Painted lines for Aircraft Enforcement (500 metre sections usually 5 sections.
Commitment from both regions for at least two strategic speed traps each (4 in total) for Fridays and Mondays. Common for drivers to see one speed enforcement trap and no more, so they continue to speed. It was found that some drivers were stopped at all 4 sites and ticketed prior to reaching their party spot in the Okanagan. Later the vehicle impound law was enacted and many were towed away for 40 km/h over the posted speed.
Enforcement was dedicated to the high fatal areas and mapped out for officers to be at or near these sites, where safe to operate. (See fatal map below)
Data from highways confirmed vehicle volumes for Fridays of a long weekend would double for eastbound and then Mondays would have the returning traffic. Therefore their enforcement would be mostly directional. Plus later it was revealed that their time commitment could be scaled back to 4 hours on each Friday of a long weekend and 4 hours on Mondays and from noon to 4 or 5 pm would be optimal.
South Okanagan Traffic Services contracted a retired officer to ride the police motorcycle and speak to motorcycle operators on the challenges and risks on this highway.
Special emphasis was placed on the motorcycle riders on this highway. It is a favoured route for the scenery and curved roadways. This highway is challenging for skilled riders and some new riders did not survive their first ride, therefore enforcement was critical for speed management of these riders.
RCMP Air Services were a valued partner in the beginning years of this project for speed management in the challenging high crash areas. Speed enforcement with this tactic requires a trained officer in the helicopter who times the vehicles through the marked zones with stop watches and then calls violators to the officers at intercept points on the road. A great method in high mountain pass regions to use a Helicopter for safety.
The success of this life saving project has assisted in redeploying IRSU from the Lower Mainland to other high crash locations away from this project area.
Highway signs were placed at 4 sites along this route, two eastbound and two westbound near high crash locations to alert drivers that Extra Enforcement is expected along this route to make the Highway Safer. (See sign below)
Every long weekend there is extra media coverage advising drivers of extra enforcement and to stay safe
Present at police training for the new officers to advise them of the strategy and the success of saving lives by following the data.
Presented at the BC Chiefs of Police Traffic Safety Committee on the success of this program and how it can be implemented in all jurisdictions in the province.
Successfully submitted a report on this High Risk Corridor project and won an award and national recognition from the Transportation Association of Canada.
Ongoing data review to pinpoint changes in crash's from our original mapping which illustrate the reductions and some high crash locations have been removed from the mapping.
Always have stakeholder briefings in the spring for road improvements and enforcement activity, then a debriefing in the fall for what worked and what didn't
A 60% reduction in fatal crashes.
The success of this program has been a testament of a team effort and data driven. This highway had been woefully forgotten about for maintenance and upkeep and possibly one of the contributing factors in the loss of life at these collisions. ICBC has been engaged in the implementation of the road improvements and a financial contributor.
The summer long weekend travellers will drive aggressively along this route if the police are not present. Case in point: 2019 the Fraser Valley Traffic Services were experiencing problems with resources (boots on the ground) and their boundaries were extended closer to Vancouver. They were unable to attend any of the long weekend tactics and as such there were 4 separate fatal collisions. Three were motorcycles, 3 in 3 weeks at the same location.
In 2020 they deployed officers on overtime at the key locations and there were no fatal crashes in this year.
The Coroners service were brought into this stakeholder crash reduction team for their knowledge of fatal crashes. It seemed for the most part that they attended fatal crashes at the very same locations and had to wonder why nobody was doing anything about it? Like Albert Einstein's definition of insanity, "Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a change."
To day there has been a 60% reduction in fatal collision along this route, this is not an engineering report, but a simple before and after calculation from the crash data.