After a recent rash of car accidents in Whistler, local RCMP officials are reminding locals and visitors to drive with caution in the Sea to Sky region, especially during the winter months.
A resident of Alaska has been charged with dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm, after causing a head-on collision along Highway 99 last Thursday, Jan. 10 in the afternoon.
James Kroener, 18, was driving through Whistler on the way to Oregon and passed a number of vehicles on a two-lane section in the Power Line Hill area, just south of Whistler.
Kroener’s vehicle struck a northbound SUV driven by a resident of Squamish, causing the closure of the highway for about 80 minutes. The lone occupant of the northbound vehicle also suffered a broken kneecap and underwent emergency surgery.
Kroener was released on a recognizance with cash bail and is scheduled to appear in North Vancouver Provincial Court on Jan. 23.
Road conditions were especially hazardous on Monday, with officers responding to three separate calls along Highway 99 between Squamish and Whistler after a sudden drop in temperature created icy conditions.
The slick roads even caused problems for emergency workers on scene, who found it hard to find good footing on the roads.
At approximately 2:30 p.m., a northbound vehicle hit another vehicle turning out of a construction zone, flipping one of the cars, but not causing any serious injuries. The highway was reopened after a short delay.
But just hours later, there was a five-vehicle accident that closed the highway for hours and resulted in one person being transported to Vancouver General Hospital with serious injuries.
To add to emergency responders’ workload, a commercial vehicle traveling along the highway dropped some of its load after a rear door swung open. The highway had to be closed again while the debris was cleared.
Last weekend there were also two reports of impaired driving and six collisions.
Investigations are underway to determine the cause of each of the recent accidents, but RCMP officials are asking drivers to ensure they have proper tires and chains and that they keep their speed relative to road conditions.
Cars are required to have a tread of 3.5 mm, although snow tires are highly recommended for travel in the Sea to Sky Corridor. Commercial vehicles must also be properly equipped.
“All our buses at this time of the year have snow tires,” said Dean Clark, the regional manager of safety for Greyhound Bus.
Buses also carry chains. The biggest problem for the buses is the constant melting and re-freezing of the road surface as traffic volume moves from freely flowing to being bumper-to-bumper. If road crews can’t treat the roads to deal with the ice due to traffic volume it can soon become a highway nightmare.
The Ministry of Transportation is also looking at the stretch of road between Creekside and Function Junction with a view to doing roadwork to widen and improve the shoulders, said spokesman Jeff Knight.
“We won’t know more until spring when we get our budget,” he said.
“We have done some design work for future widening and shoulder improvements and after the budget comes out we will get our highways program mapped out.”
Anyone with information regarding these incidents is asked to contact Whistler RCMP at 604-932-3044 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.