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Seatbelt statistics disturbing, says McIntyre

Sea to Sky stakeholders still working on Highway 99 safety issues

Five months after the fatal highway accident on the President’s Day long weekend that closed Highway 99 for five hours, West Vancouver-Garibaldi MLA Joan McIntyre said she is working hard on highway safety.

Particularly, McIntyre is concerned about how few seatbelts are being worn by drivers along the stretch of road between Vancouver and Whistler.

“We have a disproportionately higher than average number of accidents and fatalities with people not wearing a seatbelt,” said McIntyre.

“That is very disturbing, and I have to say, there is no excuse for that… People should understand it is very important that they are wearing their belts. There is a huge responsibility there,” she said.

McIntyre said the RCMP are stepping up the number of seatbelt checks, with funding from ICBC, as well as stepping up their enforcement along Highway 99 in general.

Inspector Norm McPhail from the Sea to Sky Regional Police Services reaffirmed the worry about low seat belt use.

“Compliance to seat belt wearing is an issue and has been an issue in a number of the recent fatal accidents,” said McPhail.

“Our concern is that had seatbelts been worn, there may have not been as many deaths as a result of the accidents.

“Seatbelt compliance is something we are working hard on. There has been a lot of effort and a lot of energy put into that because of the fact that it saves lives.”

McIntyre is also on a working group with McPhail to improve response times to accidents along the highway.

Following the fatal accident in February, McPhail put a request into the RCMP senior management to increase provincial policing resources along Highway 99. Letters of support from local councils accompanied the request.

“It is now a matter of senior management and the province coming together to make a decision when and if that request can be funded, based on the available budget,” said McPhail.

“One of the things we are asking for is additional traffic resources within the corridor for RCMP, as well as better responses in terms of assets available to the Ministry of Transportation, such as heavy tow trucks,” he explained.

A public campaign, through the Ministry of Transportation, is going to be launched in the near future to spread the message of safe driving habits through local newspaper ads and radio.

And McIntyre said to further enhance highway safety, tire checks will probably be reinstated next winter. Last year’s tire checks found a large number of commercial vehicles driving on bald tires, and McIntyre said she would like to see fines increased for safety infractions.