These are the most dangerous places for traffic accidents in Metro Vancouver

“The road is probably the most dangerous place, the most complex place we will ever be in our lives,” said a road safety expert

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This story is part of a series examining road safety on the lower mainland. Read more about making our roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

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Vehicle collisions at just five locations in Metro Vancouver injured or killed 2,800 people over the past five years, according to an analysis of ICBC collision data from 2016-20. Two of the sites were bridges, two were on highways, and the fifth was 88 Avenue and King George Boulevard in Surrey.

All locations have common characteristics, which road safety experts say are the primary factors leading to collisions: high traffic volumes and high speeds.

“The more vehicles you have, the more likely you are to have a collision. It’s just the physics of it,” said Raheem Dilgir, president of TranSafe, a road safety consulting firm. “And the faster the vehicle drives, the more likely it is to that it causes harm. “

Traffic clashes killed 193 people and injured more than 170,000 others in Metro Vancouver over the five years, according to Postmedia’s analysis of ICBC data. The figures only take into account motorists and passengers, not pedestrians or cyclists.

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There were 776 collisions that resulted in casualties on the Alex Fraser Bridge from 2016-20 – about 300 a year and most of any location in the Metro. The Knight Street Bridge and the intersection of 264th Street and the Trans-Canada Highway in Langley came in second and third place with about 535 accidents each.

Dilgir said that a high-risk factor shared by bridges and highways – especially accesses and exits – is the need to merge motorists at different speeds.

“The differences in speed between vehicles are a big part of the (collision) equation,” he said. “Someone is going to get frustrated and start passing or hauling.”

One solution is to give drivers moving at different speeds more room to merge. “Give the vehicles a greater chance of reaching the highway speed or the high road speed before driving into it,” Dilgir said.

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Roundabouts have begun to be used more frequently at intersections on or off the ramp, an option Dilgir called “quite appropriate.”

“Any possibility of putting in a roundabout should be explored,” he said, as they slow down all motorists to a uniform speed while allowing an uninterrupted flow of traffic.

A driver makes a U-turn as cars pass through the intersection at 88th Avenue and King George Boulevard in Surrey on Thursday.
A driver makes a U-turn as cars pass through the intersection at 88th Avenue and King George Boulevard in Surrey on Thursday. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

There were a total of 511 collisions at the intersection between 88 Avenue and King George Boulevard in Surrey, although the number of casualties has dropped since 2016. Traffic safety improvements were made at the intersection, including dedicated left-turn signals and bus lanes.

“At that level of traffic volume, there is very little you can do,” Dilgir said, noting that the intersection has almost enough traffic to justify a detour – in fact, an overpass that separates traffic.

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The King George Corridor serves a diverse mix of users, including long-distance trucks, buses, commuters, pedestrians and a variety of commercial activities. All of this makes road safety along the road particularly complex, Dilgir said.

“There’s just so much going on there that something will happen when these different user groups meet,” he said.

Dilgir said it would improve security up and down the corridor to encourage as many people as possible to use transit. “Buses are by far the safest way to travel,” he said, “the more people you have in buses, the safer your route will be even if you move the same amount of people.”

Shabnem Afzal, Surrey’s head of road safety, said the city council unanimously approved a new road safety plan in 2019 that targeted 50 “high-risk” intersections for safety improvements. Part of that includes pushing for more transit use.

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“I think we really need to think about changing the ways that people travel,” she said. “It’s about moving the mindset and power away from the drivers.”

Federal guidance would also help speed up the process of improving road safety, locally and across the country, Dilgir said.

“There is definitely a need for more federal regulation and encouragement for consistent (design) principles and standards” around road systems, he said.

Afzal agreed. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had some federal and perhaps even more provincial leadership around the security issue?” she asked.

ngriffiths@postmedia.com

twitter.com/njgriffiths


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