EDITORIAL – Better roads would cut fatalities but human error still kills

Intersection on Columbia Street.

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

WAY TOO MANY people die in traffic accidents around here. We all know that.

The City of Kamloops wants to do something about it, and hopes joining a world-wide movement called Vision Zero will get some results.

Vision Zero began in Sweden in 1998 with a simple objective: eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries by building better roads. It’s an ambitious goal but it takes a practical approach.

Basically, Vision Zero acknowledges that people will always make mistakes. I assume that includes carelessness and plain lousy driving. Vision Zero focuses on a shared responsibility between traffic infrastructure and those who use it, but leans heavily toward infrastructure.

Within that thinking, intersections and pedestrian crossings play a big role because most fatal collisions occur there. It’s a sad world where just trying to cross the street can get you killed.

Therefore, rebuilding intersections to safer standards is key. According to Vision Zero, the human tolerance for being hit by a vehicle is 30 km/h. Therefore, if a higher speed is desired at a pedestrian-crossing location, pedestrians and automobiles must be totally separated.

Let me give you an example. The posted speed limit on Westsyde Road, where many pedestrian injuries and deaths have occurred, is 60 km/h with the exception of the 30 zone at Westsyde elementary.

So that entire stretch from the school to the Halston Bridge would get a failing grade under Vision Zero standards.

Maybe it explains why it’s hard to find specifics about Vision Zero success stories despite the fact dozens of countries and many cities have adopted it as a strategy. Certainly, things like lower speed limits and structural changes such as roundabouts increase safety.

Vision Zero is an admirable goal and maybe some new ideas will come forward at public sessions on the plan tonight and tomorrow but no matter how good we make roads, saving lives is up to the people who use them.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at

About Mel Rothenburger (9641 Articles) 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 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.

1 Comment on EDITORIAL – Better roads would cut fatalities but human error still kills

  1. They want to build better roads because they want to minimize human error and create a safer environment for ALL road users…and yet they keep on building roads that resemble F1 tracks and are purely designed to enable the fast flow of motor vehicles. I remember reading an article on Scientific American back in the late 90s (you were actually the mayor back then) which talked about intersections. Safe designs of them versus unsafe design which is UNFORTUNATELY the way the greater majority of intersections are built in Kamloops. I remember sharing the article with the City. I also witnessed and continue witnessing a stubborn reluctance to change from the same people who now pretend to be “listening”. I am no longer interested nor I will ever waste time again “engaging” with the City while David Trawin and Byron McCorkell are running it. We also have a police force in Kamloops which has little, very little interest in enforcing road laws.

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