All of us that travel any part of the Yellowhead Highway through the North Thompson have stories of bad road conditions and bad drivers.
We all have tales of being passed around blind corners, being tailgated by everything from a Smart car to a Greyhound bus, excessive speed with no purpose and all that in one trip to Kamloops.
We endure icy conditions, wet conditions, fog and all sorts of other events that can turn a drive in to Kamloops to buy some shoes into a horror story complete with fatalities in the blink of an eye.
So what is the solution?
Getting a shoe store in Barriere would certainly help cut down on the need to travel, but all kidding aside the real solution is to fix the highway. More left turn lanes, more passing zones and better maintenance would all help.
I am not saying we need to four-lane the highway from Heffely Creek to McBride, but improvements are absolutely needed.
Drivers that pass on double lines are frustrated and/or complete morons. If a driver is in a rush and there are no passing lanes and few safe places to pass they will default to taking all sorts of risks.
There is a lack of passing sections all through the North Thompson Valley.
Where a passing lane exists the problem is that some slow moving traffic move into the passing lane and stay there. The traffic behind them cannot go by, and the frustration rises along with a sudden loss of all sense.
Where there are long straight sections of road with passing allowed, the issue is that slow moving trucks use this level ground to make up time and to increase their speed to climb the hills at both ends of this portion of the highway.
When attempting to pass these previously slow moving vehicles drivers are faced with going speeds well over the legal limit which for some is a challenge in itself.
Then add in traffic from the numerous side roads. If a driver enters the highway without properly assessing the situation coming towards them, the situation can be deadly.
These issues are found all through the North Thompson Valley, and they all need attention. Traffic through our valley has grown exponentially with the boom in the Alberta oil fields and the LNG projects in the north east of B.C. Our valley is the route of choice for countless loads of goods that are needed to drive these huge economic opportunities. As the traffic on the highway increases, so do the problems.
I have been told that some statistics say that the section of the Yellowhead Highway from Little Fort to Kamloops has had more serious and fatal crashes than any given section of the same length on the route from Kamloops to the Alberta Border.
I am leery of statements like that though, because as you manipulate statistics their validity goes out the window and any interest in fixing the problem at hand soon follows.
I do know that in the past two years there have been fatal crashes on the Yellowhead Highway that could have been avoided if steps had been taken to upgrade the design of the road with regards to its safety.
Unfortunately, more will follow if nothing is done.
Lack of funding for any possible fix is the problem.
Safety enforcement for bad drivers is immediate and relatively inexpensive at first glance.
The problem is a lack of staffing. It is unrealistic to expect our safety officers to continually do more and more with fewer resources each year. Driver education helps in some cases, but this often is given after an incident has already happened.
We are told that any attempt at upgrading the road itself is exceptionally costly. Experts come and look at problems and go away to mull over the data. All this has gone on for many years and the results are always the same. The fix is a lot of money.
What is a life worth? When do we finally say enough is enough?
It is unconscionable that travellers are subject to unnecessary risks here in the valley. The problem can and must be fixed now.