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EDITORIAL – Study on Coquihalla crashes needs to be taken seriously

(Image: Govt of BC)

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

A NEW STUDY on the Coquihalla is enough to make you stay home or maybe take the old five-hour drive down the Fraser Canyon to get to the Coast.

The study, led by road safety researcher Dr. Jeff Brubacher and published in the journal Sustainability, claims there’s been a 118 per cent increase in fatalities since the speed limit on the Coq was boosted from 110 to 120 kmh in 2015.

It says there have also been more injuries and total crashes and declares “a marked deterioration in road safety.” All the pro-speed arguments used for increasing the speed limit have been disproven, it concludes.

This has some, like former transportation minister Todd Stone and the Sense BC speed advocacy group, skeptical to put it mildly.

Stone says the speed limit was increased on the recommendation of highways engineers. He says the Coquihalla was designed to accommodate the higher speed and that the new report doesn’t take into consideration such things as weather and impaired driving.

The Coquihalla is a place where drivers take full advantage of the opportunity to drive fast no matter what the season. The Coq in winter, however, is especially challenging, and all the modern highway design and automobile technology won’t stop anyone from ending up in a ditch or over a cliff if speed isn’t appropriate for the conditions.

So, saying the weather, or impaired driving for that matter, should be blamed instead of speed doesn’t compute.

Certainly, the Brubacher study should be rigorously examined and whatever shortcomings challenged. But its warnings should also be taken seriously.

The big question is, what evidence is there, if any, to contradict the Brubacher findings?

The provincial government is in the midst of a three-year review of its own. The sooner Transportation Minister Claire Trevena gets her ministry to wrap it up and release it, and decides what to do about Coquihalla speed limits, the better we’ll feel about getting back on the road.

Mel Rothenburger’s Armchair Mayor editorials appear Mondays through Thursdays on CFJC- TV. His Armchair Mayor column is published Saturdays on ArmchairMayor.ca and CFJC Today. Contact him at mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca.

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About Mel Rothenburger (6186 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

6 Comments on EDITORIAL – Study on Coquihalla crashes needs to be taken seriously

  1. Mel: congratulations to you for once, taking a more cautious approach to some propaganda coming from the sustainable transport / Vision Zero promoters. With respect to the Post Media story about the study, Is it reporting, or simply mischievous advocacy to be writing “Speed Limit hikes… Led to Vastly more fatalities…” when causes of, or contributing factors for crashes were not examined or determined by the study authors? The authors’ own research indicates speeds hardly changed in affected areas (average speeds changed from 94.0 to 94.3); MOTI numbers indicate some actually went down. I’m not persuaded that even the study claim about higher numbers of crashes / fatalities is correct given by the authors’ own admission there’s a margin of error of 10 to 225%. There are many problems with this study, including, but not limited to: 1) the authors have an agenda, and it’s not to be the drivers’ friend. It’s not a stretch to say they are working for the minimal use / elimination of the private automobile. They cannot accept, nor have they ever accepted that highway speed limits should be the responsibility of the capable engineers responsible for MOTI. Rather, they want “Safe Speed Systems” limits on our highways and roadways. This is a Vision Zero dream where everyone is limited to 30 km/h in cities and 70 km/h on undivided highways. Small wonder these are the same people promoting full time automated enforcement on BC Roads, as it’d be a guaranteed money maker when one sets the groundwork for mass civil disobedience by drivers. 2) Their data and methodology is full of holes. Don’t take my word for it, refer to this critique by another promoter of sustainable transport (in other words, one of “them”) with the University of Washington who says “In short, I would not have recommended publication if I had been a peer reviewer, due to many unusual and unexplained analytical decisions, inadequate description of methods, and a lack of robustness checks to ensure that the claimed results were not just a statistical quirk.”http://faculty.washington.edu/dwhm/2018/10/11/did-bcs-speed-limit-increase-lead-to-more-deaths/. 3) They’ve based their entire thesis around the concept that correlation equals causation. If you’re going to claim speed is the cause of something, surely you’d examine speed’s role in collisions? No, unbelievably they did not. So here’s what should be an easy question for anybody to understand and fashion some logic from: if speed limits are 110 but I drive 125, and the next day the sign says 120 and I continue to drive 125; when I crash, is the sign to blame? That’s what the study authors spent a lot of time and money (presumably tax payers’ money) to have us believe.

  2. George S Duncan // October 16, 2018 at 10:25 AM // Reply

    It seems inconceivable to me that speed would be the issue, given that so many people have sped along the Coq for decades w/o incident. Many cars and trucks do more than 150 km/h. You can do 130 km/h on the Coq and be passed by a large pickup truck with Alta plates that is going at least 160 km/h. And never — never — have I come across any of those trucks five minutes later crashed. The real problems are lack of experience and poor tire choices, which make vehicles dangerous at any speed.
    And let’s not mention all the very high rates of speed the police hit to chase down a speeder who is going 50 km/h less than the cop.

  3. Trevor Jackson // October 16, 2018 at 8:40 AM // Reply

    The higher speed limits in Europe are often mentioned to justify ours. However the much better engineering of the European roads and higher standards of signage are ignored. The frequency of accidents around the Inks Lake exit must be due to a deficient set up, for example.

  4. Also on the Coquihalla the road edges (the fine line between making it home or not) are poorly marked and makes driving at night exceedingly dangerous, The number of reflective markers should be exponentially increased, like the roads in Europe.

  5. Todd Stone has been trying to discredit this story. He has not taken it seriously and responded appropriately. WE should beware of politicians who put their political needs over public safety and who fancy themselves smarter than the scientists. If you make a mistake, own it!

  6. Ken McClelland // October 16, 2018 at 5:32 AM // Reply

    We drive the Coquihalla quite often, at least 12 – 18 return trips a year to the Coast. 120km/h isn’t the problem, nor is the highway. 160+ km/h is a problem, driving too fast for conditions is a problem, hence the variable speed corridor on Phase One, and driver inexperience/using cruise control in winter conditions is a problem. Couldn’t tell you how many totalled $100,000+ SUV’s I have seen over the years, particularly northbound (coming out of Vancouver….) often due to using cruise in icy conditions despite large signs warning against it. Commercial trucks taking up all three lanes of long hills at 50 km/h is a problem as it leads to rear-end collisions, impatient driving, and sudden and often poor driving maneuvers. Driver fatigue is a big problem. Many of the single-vehicle crashes, and probably a significant number of other crashes can be attributed to falling asleep while driving. A significant but often un-mentioned issue is hydroplaning in the rain due to water accumulation in ruts made by heavy trucks running on soft pavement on hot summer days, particularly in the right lane, where you are supposed to drive unless overtaking. Commercial trucks need to run lighter, or a more durable pavement recipe needs to be devised to correct this. The above are just suggestions, but an alert and experienced driver in a well-maintained vehicle under good driving conditions should not have problems at 120 km/h.

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