Crashes down on Highway 5A
It’s a stretch of road known for its beautiful landscapes and rural setting.
However the Old Merritt Highway (Highway 5A) has also been the scene of some devastating crashes.
That was especially the case in the spring of 2010, when a rash of accidents involving mostly large transport trucks had local politicians and residents calling for a ban of the vehicles on the two-lane highway.
The spate of crashes prompted the provincial government enact several measures to bring the carnage to a halt.
As it turns out, the highway has been safer for travel in the last couple years than during the middle of the last decade.
According to ICBC, the number of crashes and injuries along Highway 5A has been generally in decline dating back to 2006.
In 2010, there were 25 accidents along the highway, resulting in 28 injuries.
That proved to be an increase from 2009, in which there were 18 crashes involving 14 injuries.
However, neither of the figures come close to touching the number of crashes in 2006.
There were 47 accidents on Highway 5A that year, injuring 32 people.
The following year, officials recorded 30 crashes injuring 22 people, while 2008 saw 33 crashes and another 18 people injured.
ICBC does not yet have data from 2011 available yet.
Joe Gardner, general manager of the Douglas Lake Ranch, is happy to see the number of crashes along Highway 5A in decline, but isn’t convinced the road is any safer.
“It doesn’t feel any better,” he told KTW.
Gardner said he still sees many large trucks travelling faster than they should for the road.
“I make sure I don’t pass any trucks on the corners,” he said.
Gardner noted that, following the attention the highway received a few years ago, there was a large enforcement presence, but that has since been scaled back.
Interestingly, though Gardner would like the large trucks to stop using the road, he doesn’t favour a ban.
Kamloops-South Thompson Liberal MLA Kevin Krueger has been an outspoken advocate of banning the big rigs from the Old Merritt Highway.
Though he credits the work of the province and road maintenance crews for the safety improvements along the route, he hasn’t changed his mind.
“I’d like the long-haul truckers to stay off of it,” Krueger said, arguing the road should be left for locals and tourists and for agriculture use.
He acknowledged a truck ban on 5A would likely force the province to consider doing so for similar highways in B.C.
Highway has hazardous history
In April 2010, there were four crashes involving large trucks along Highway 5A, including two within two days.
On April 28, a semi sideswiped another truck, throwing one vehicle against a rock wall while the other spun and jackknifed, landing its tail in Nicola Lake.
The second truck hit a pickup truck.
Injuries to the drivers of the semis were minor. One passenger in the pickup suffered a broken pelvis and a second passenger had a ruptured spleen.
Police said one of the truck drivers fell asleep at the wheel.
On April 14, two men were killed after they crashed their SUV into an oncoming chip truck near Trapp Lake.
In that incident, the truck driver was not at fault as numerous witnesses saw the SUV driving erratically before the crash.
In the following months, the Ministry of Transportation, through its commercial vehicle safety enforcement team, handed out 48 speeding tickets to truckers.
Besides handing out tickets, the ministry installed speed-reader boards, rumble strips and 200 barriers on five priority curves along the highway.