Calls to lower speed limits on the Coquihalla Highway
In the wake of a major pileup on the Coquihalla Highway Sunday, some professional drivers and tow truck operators who frequent the area say lower speed limits could improve safety.
The crumpled cab of a transport truck is the only evidence remaining from a series of crashes that saw two Greyhound buses, several semis and two passenger vehicles slam into one another with some sliding down the embankment.
“It’s a miracle that multiple people didn’t die,” said Hope, B.C. Mayor Wilfried Vicktor.
Conditions were wintry and visibility was poor, and the massive pileup that sent 31 people to hospital left some questioning the highway’s safety.
Now, some professional truckers are calling for changes along the highway.
“They need to lower the speed limit,” said Gurpreet Singh, a truck driver from Surrey.
The previous Liberal government raised speed limits along the mountain highway several years ago. The section near Hope where Sunday’s crash occurred has a limit of 110 km/h. In other sections, drivers are allowed to go up to 120 km/h.
“One hundred and ten, 100 through that kind of terrain is not appropriate,” said truck driver Sharon Morneault, citing the slope and curve near the Othello tunnels where the crash took place.
John Rogers, a driver with Jamie Davis Towing, wants variable speed limits in the winter when conditions are bad.
“The speed on that highway—some days it’s outrageous,” he said. “I’ve had people fly past me like I was standing still.”
He also thinks some people aren’t prepared for winter conditions. In some cases, he said, truckers from outside of B.C. don’t have chains or don’t know how to use them.
“When it’s snowing, it’s icy, it’s cold, that stretch of highway can get really dangerous.”
In the winter of 2015 and 2016, the Coquihalla Highway saw 80 serious accidents between Hope and Merritt. Last winter, there were 67.
A spokesperson for B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation told CTV News they’re piloting variable speed limits on some sections of the Coquihalla. The area where the weekend crash occurred was not one of those sections.
“Right now, we're not focusing on lowering the speed limit. We're working with the RCMP as they investigate the crash and try and understand the cause of the crash,” ministry spokesperson Janelle Erwin said.
Eight people involved in the crash remained in hospital two days later, according to the Fraser Health Authority. All were in stable condition.
In the meantime, the mayor of Hope said lowering the speed limit may not be the answer. He said motorists also need to adjust their driving to the conditions.
“I don’t think you can mandate common sense,” he said.
With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Michele Brunoro