Sea to Sky road safety a focus of conference 

click to enlarge Laying Tarmac Construction workers in hard hats and steel toe boots have been upgrading  the Sea to Sky highway since 2005
  • Laying Tarmac Construction workers in hard hats and steel toe boots have been upgrading the Sea to Sky highway since 2005

The Sea to Sky Highway’s reputation as a dangerous road will be just one focus of the Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals (CARSP) conference, to be held in Whistler from June 8 th to 11 th .

Taking place at the Telus Conference Centre, the CARSP conference will bring professionals such as behavioural scientists, psychologists and numerous others to Whistler to discuss issues related to road safety, said Mavis Johnson, a conference organizer and member of CARSP’s board of directors.

One of the topics for discussion at the conference will be Road Safety Vision 2010, a national strategy administered by Transport Canada that aims to ensure Canada has the safest roads in the world.

But according to Johnson, it could use some souping-up.

“We're looking for people who can help us move beyond road safety Vision 2010,” she said. “Where do we need to be looking in the next decade to improve safety on the roads in Canada?”

Road Safety Vision 2010 aims to do a number of things, including raising public awareness of road safety issues and toughening enforcement measures.

The opening speaker at the conference will be Brian Jonah, director of road safety programs at Transport Canada, whose talk, “Road Safety Vision 2010 and Beyond,” will focus on how Canada can build on the safety initiatives to which it has already committed.

The closing speaker, meanwhile, will be Philip Allan from the department of transport in Adelaide, South Australia, who will talk about Australian road safety.

Australia, Johnson said, is a world leader in international road safety, along with countries such as the United Kingdom and Sweden.

“They’re already looking at where they need to be looking next,” Johnson said. “I definitely think (Philip will) send us away with some good thoughts about the things that we need to be paying attention to.”

While general road safety initiatives will be a primary area of focus at the conference, no road safety conference in the corridor would go forward without giving significant attention to issues surrounding the Sea to Sky Highway.

“Even before it was improved, people used to talk about it as the killer highway or the highway to die and all these other things,” Johnson said. “I really believe it isn't the road, it's the way that people drive the road.”

She pointed to speed, fatigue and talking on cell phones as particular factors that affect safety on the highway.

“You do have to respect the highway because it’s a winding highway,” she said. “There isn’t a lot of room for error because you’ve got the cliff face on one side and a rock face on the other side.”

“It all has to do with the speed at which drivers drive the highway, the fact that there’s a lot of tailgating, plus people are fatigued if they’ve been skiing all day.”

MaryAnne Arcand, director of the B.C. Forest Safety Council’s Forestry TruckSafe program, will also be speaking at the conference. Her presentation will focus on how TruckSafe has partnered with various agencies that have jurisdiction over resource roads to ensure they can communicate with each other effectively.

She, too, feels the Sea to Sky Highway faces numerous problems related to road safety, and believes it boils down to driver inattention.

“(There’s) certainly speed, the volume of traffic given the roads, although I know there’s a lot of improvements being made,” Arcand said. “People are in a hurry, they want to get to the ski hill and make the most of their day, but (they may) also (be) fatigued at the end of the day if they’ve been skiing or drinking.”

As for the “improvements” being made, she was referring to the construction efforts to make the highway wider. She stopped short of saying that the construction efforts were outright improvements to the roads, but said an effort is being made to make the roads safer.

“I can’t honesty say until we see the results,” Arcand said. “Right now it’s all a mix of construction and waits and slowdowns which causes people to speed in between, but that’s probably not helping at this point.”

The conference will begin on Sunday with a welcoming at 5:30 p.m. and will complete on Wednesday at approximately 12:30 p.m.

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