Letters to the Editor for the week of February 1 

click to enlarge PHOTO BY CLARE OGILVIE
  • Photo by Clare Ogilvie

ICBC should consider no-fault insurance

Is the recent ICBC debacle a local Whistler issue?

Sure it is. We have all been watching the news on how dangerous the Sea to Sky Highway can be, have watched multiple tragedies unfold and are witness to how many people cannot drive in winter conditions. All of these situations lead to higher rates for us all, and it's just not fair on those who don't have accidents to pay more.

ICBC's union is blaming autobody shops.  

The NDP is blaming the Liberals. Pundits are blaming young drivers in $250,000 Lambos.  

I blame it on a lack of private choices. But that isn't going to be an option for some time, if ever. Especially with the NDP and unions still having the ears of the government. Site C anyone?

One solution seems obvious.

British Columbia is unique in Canada with its full-tort system, where those who are injured have the right to sue for all damages in court without any legislated cap on payments.

As a result, 24 per cent of ICBC's expenses are for legal fees, expert reports and related costs.

Under no-fault insurance, it doesn't matter who is found to be at fault; the insurance company will handle the claim and payout for damages, avoiding costly litigation. Blame will still be assigned, and that person may experience a potential rate increase upon renewal. 

"There's a joke in Saskatchewan, where drivers are given the choice between no-fault insurance and the kind of tort insurance that has resulted in ICBC files clogging B.C.'s courts," said Rick McCandless, a former deputy minister who has examined ICBC, on the CBC this week. He continued, "Ninety-eight per cent of drivers chose no-fault. The two-per-cent tort fans being the province's lawyers and their families."

NDP Attorney General David Eby has said no to no-fault insurance. He is a lawyer.

Patrick Smyth

Ski hills no place for 'me-first' attitudes

Poor line-up and slope etiquette cannot continue unchecked.

In a letter to the editor titled "Line-up Etiquette" in the Jan. 25, 2018 issue of the Pique, I found it ironic that the author of that letter would criticize an individual for his actions on line-up etiquette when the author's actions were equally selfish.

The criticized individual felt it was his right to proceed to the front of the line-up where one of his friends was standing and in the process knocked over several unmanned skis and boards.

Although I do not condone the actions of that misguided individual, the author's belief of appropriate line-up etiquette is equally absurd.

The author believes it is his right, and the right of other like-minded people, to leave their unmanned skis and boards at the front of the maze as a legitimate means to reserve places in the line-up while they enjoy coffee or even breakfast.

What about the rights of the majority of skiers and boarders who arrive at the lifts in the early morning completely equipped and ready to go (have had their breakfasts) and take their places at the end of the line-up?

Should the aforementioned line crashers be allowed to take their places in front of those people already standing in the line-up? I think not!

These selfish actions are not limited to the lift line-ups. As an example, the skier or boarder who straight-lines groomed runs (not just safe or family zones) at three times the average speed of the majority of sliders on those runs is putting at risk those sliders.

If peer pressure cannot curb the actions of the "me first and damn the rest" attitude of the line crashers and speedsters, then Whistler Blackcomb is going to have to do more to protect the civilized majority from these self-centred abusers.

Bill Armatage

Help limit avalanche fatalities

Every winter, avalanche fatalities happen in Canada, particularly here in our beautiful, mountainous province of B.C. Hearing about these tragedies led me to consider a factor that might help prevent avalanche fatalities for winter recreationists. That factor is about staying off backcountry slopes after noon, since I thought that warming would occur after mid-day, which could affect the stability of the snow pack.

Focusing then, on time of day and winter recreationists, I conducted research on avalanche fatalities and avalanche prevention strategies in Canada. First, I found and tabulated historical statistics, and my results indicate that not only was time of day a factor in fatal avalanche accidents, but also that most fatalities related to avalanches involving winter recreationists have happened after noon.

I found this data in websites documenting avalanches in Canada from 1955 to 1984, as well as in an online report on Canadian avalanche accidents from 1984 to 1996.

This report claimed that afternoons were the most dangerous time for winter recreationists, stating, "39 per cent of accidents occurred between 12:00 p.m. and 2 p.m.," and providing a graph showing that another 24 per cent happened between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.

In discussing the 12:00 p.m. to 2 p.m. timeframe, the report also stated that warming due to air temperature after mid-day "may contribute" to the high number of avalanche accidents "in early afternoon" since "(T)he air temperature usually reaches a peak between 12:00 p.m. and 2 p.m., and warming tends to reduce snow stability." So, between 1984 and 1996, a total of 63 per cent of avalanche accidents occurred between noon and 4 p.m.

In fact, this report and my review of the 1955 to 1984 data show similar results. When I compiled the times of day that fatal recreational accidents had occurred between 1955 and 1984, I found that the majority of fatal accidents happened in the afternoon.

As well, during my most recent research, I found that the current Avalanche Canada website includes all the data on past avalanches from the separate sites, as well as new data on more recent avalanche accidents.

This website also has a page that includes information stating that time of day is one typical factor in avalanches triggered by recreationists, in particular, "(B)etween the hours of 12:00 p.m. and 2 pm."

Yet surprisingly, when I looked at websites discussing avalanche preparedness strategies, I found that, while time of day is mentioned as one factor, staying off backcountry slopes after noon is not listed alongside other strategies as an important way to avoid avalanche accidents.

Since avalanche specialists appear to agree that time of day is a factor related to avalanches, and since previous data shows most fatalities happen after noon, perhaps these specialists could start emphasizing time of day on the slopes as an important consideration in avalanche prevention. With such an emphasis in place, winter recreationists would be more likely to take into account their time of day on the slopes when planning backcountry trips.

Now, I expect specialist may have various reasons for not emphasizing time of day.

For instance, all those involved in winter sports know that gliding down backcountry slopes after noon in bright sunshine would be a wonderful experience.

As well, since some winter recreationists travel from afar, they would likely want to spend as many daylight hours as possible on the mountains, especially if they're paying to enjoy winter sports in a remote area. Yes, clearly, the draw of "one more run," and the role of economics may be reasons that avalanche prevention materials don't emphasize avoiding the slopes after noon.

It's also possible that, given other very important factors that might result in avalanches such as type of snow pack, specialists may believe that time of day is less relevant in preventing avalanche fatalities.

After my research, however, I am convinced that time of day is very relevant. Yes, today, I believe that emphasizing the high risk of staying on the slopes after noon is essential in limiting the number of avalanche-related fatalities for winter recreationists.

Indeed, you can't do anything about how much snow falls or when it falls or the freezing and thawing of layers of snow or any of the other factors related to the snow pack. You have no control over those avalanche factors.

You can, however, do something about what time of day you put yourself on backcountry slopes — that's a factor you can do something about.

Yes, when you plan your winter sport adventures and your avalanche preparedness, you can seriously consider trying to avoid backcountry slopes in the afternoons. So, if you can stay off the slopes after noon, you may prevent tragic avalanche accidents such as the one in B.C. on Jan. 29, 2016, which occurred after noon and resulted in five fatalities.

Carol June Ogden

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