‘Drastic speeds’ clocked on Sea to Sky Highway 

Speeding may have been a factor in Sunday’s fatal accident

The new wide-open Sea to Sky Highway is proving too tempting for some drivers.

Police are clocking "drastic speeds" on the multi-million dollar upgraded road between Horseshoe Bay and Whistler.

"We need people to slow down," said Cpl. Scott Bowden, the commanding officer in charge of Sea to Sky Traffic Services.

"Steps have been taken (to make the highway safer) but we still need people to follow the rules of the road, which isn't happening."

It's a worrying trend and one that could have played a role in Sunday's fatal accident that crippled the highway for five hours into the early afternoon.

It was the first of two accidents that closed the highway that day, leaving hundreds of road travellers frustrated and stranded on the main road in and out of Whistler.

Shortly after 9:30 a.m. a northbound motorcyclist lost control of his bike at an area called Tunnel Point, north of Lions Bay, and went over the centre line into a southbound vehicle.

The 46-year-old Vancouver motorcyclist was pronounced dead at the scene, while the occupants of the vehicle were uninjured in the collision.

The highway was closed in both directions for an hour and a half. Police switched to single lane alternating traffic for three and a half hours before the highway was re-opened.

Roughly four hours later the highway shut down again for another accident where a driver veered off the road into a 25 foot ditch just south of the Tantalus Lookout.

A 44-year-old mother was transported by air to Vancouver General Hospital while her 10-year-old son was moved by ambulance. On Tuesday police said both appear to be doing OK.

There was single lane alternating traffic after the accident and then a full closure for 65 minutes while the air ambulance was on the scene.

"One of our mandates is to try to open up the highway as quickly as possible and to get traffic moving but we still have an investigation to do and we cannot jeopardize that investigation to get the highway open sooner," said Bowden.

Police have not yet determined what led to the second accident. There will be, however, a police debriefing on the fatal accident.

Bowden said police have clocked some drastic speeds on the highway, with one motorcyclist posting 250 kilometres per hour in a 90 km/h zone.

"With multiple lanes and more passing opportunities, it has increased speed and allowed people to go a higher rate of speed for longer periods," said Bowden.

It is one of the drawbacks of the $600 million highway improvements, which brought more passing lanes and created a straighter road. The irony isn't lost on Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed.

"People have been lobbying for years to have a safer highway... so we get that, and the downside is... reduced safety because of increased speeds," he said.

Sunday's fatality is the first death on the Sea to Sky Highway in 2009. There were two fatalities last year. Those numbers are down for the 10-year average which showed about five to six fatalities on the Sea to Sky annually.

Bowden, however, said it's too early to say that the highway is safer. It is not 100 per cent complete, he explained, and they still need to examine data over several years.

"We still have the rules of the road to follow," said the corporal.

He pointed to wearing seatbelts, not drinking and driving, slowing down for yellow lights, and driving within the speed limit.

"You think they're pretty self-explanatory but they're missed over and over again," he said.

He encouraged drivers to use the Watch 99 system. By calling *0099 drivers can report speeders into a message recording. If they capture the licence plate number, police will send a warning letter, detailing potential fines.

Bowden said they get 15 to 20 recordings per month.

He said: "We'd like to see it used a whole lot more."


'Wasted' in Whistler

In an effort to make roads safer throughout the country, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is presenting a high impact multi-media assembly show at Whistler Secondary next week.

The production, entitled Wasted , is an effort to instill the sobering message about drinking and driving to teenagers across the country. One in every eight deaths and injuries in road crashes is a teenager.

The event takes place on Thursday, Oct. 22 at Whistler Secondary School at 1 p.m.




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