A new report from the provincial public health officer Perry Kendall points to higher rates of motor vehicle fatalities in the interior parts of the province, a trend that is borne out here in the Upper Columbia Valley, according to acting Columbia Valley RCMP commander Grant Simpson.
“Rural and remote areas, and rural highways are also hazardous due to the high speeds at which vehicles travel, fewer people to identify and report crashes when they do occur, and longer distances from emergency services when medical help is needed,” read the report. “In fact a comparison of B.C.s health authorities presented in this report shows that while 15.9 per cent of British Columbia’s population live in Interior Health, 38.8 per cent of motor vehicle fatalities occur there.”
“That’s certainly the case here in the valley,” said Simpson, adding the police do typically see more motor vehicle fatalities on Highway 93 through Kootenay National Park than on the other highways and roads in or leading to and from the Upper Columbia Valley.
“Mostly it’s because people tend to exceed the speed limits on that road (Highway 93) and to exceed it by wide margins,” he said. “There are also a lot of people using that road who are from out of province, who are not necessarily as familiar with it or used to driving on that type of road.”
The provincial report said speed, impairment, and distraction were the top contributing factors for motor vehicle crashes that resulted in fatalities in B.C.
Simpson concurred that, here in the valley, speed and distraction are the major causes of traffic fatalities. He added that while impairment is still a big issue, there has been some improvement seen locally on that recently.
“In terms of fatalities, speed and distracted driving are more factors than impaired driving,” he said. “We are seeing less impairment here than we used to see.”
“Road safety is still a critical public-health issue,” said Kendall in a press release accompanying the report. “Any preventable death or serious injury is unacceptable, including those that occur as the result of a motor vehicle crash. Though B.C. has seen a notable two-thirds decrease in motor vehicle crash fatalities since 1996, we could still achieve lower rates of fatalities and serious injuries-especially in vulnerable road users.”
The provincial Ministry of Transportation is also wanting to remind residents that the mandatory use of winter tires officially ended on Thursday, March 31st, but has advised that winter conditions in high elevation area are still possible and that drivers should continue to exercise caution.