Following a number of fatal car accidents on Highway 99 this summer, the RCMP are continuing to drop the hammer on bad driving near Pemberton.
Officers are bolstering their presence on the highway to send out the message that anyone driving over the speed limit or under the influence will be ticketed.
“We’re still monitoring it as often as we can. Speeds are coming down. However, we have to keep the pressure on to try to curb people’s driving behaviour,” said Corporal Paul Vadik, adding that the stretch of highway between Pemberton and Whistler has been dubbed the Whistler 500.
“We have discretion about whether or not to give tickets. And if you have history on your driving record, you are going to get a ticket for speeding. And it is just that simple. There has to be a consequence for people to get the picture to slow down,” he said.
These efforts have come after a series of car accidents within a five-day span two weeks ago unnerved the Pemberton community.
Avalene Fraser was killed on Sept. 18 while driving under the influence. Four days later, Marc Brodeur died when his car flew down an embankment while speeding. And the following morning Darryl Reid was seriously injured while driving under the influence. Reid remains in critical care at the Vancouver General Hospital.
Moreover, another vehicle accident occurred this past weekend when a loaded semi tractor and trailer unit lost control and overturned into a ditch near Pemberton on Friday, Sept. 28 at 10:30 p.m.
RCMP officers believe that when the commercial vehicle entered a sharp curve traveling north bound, the securing points on the load gave way, causing the load to shift. The driver was unable to correct the situation and lost control of the vehicle. The driver sustained only minor injuries and was treated by B.C. Ambulance attendant at the scene. The vehicle, however, was extensively damaged. The matter is still under investigation at this time, and no charges have been laid against the driver.
In total, nine people have been killed in car accidents on the stretch of highway near Pemberton this year.
Inspector Norm McPhail outlined plans during the Pemberton council meeting Tuesday to get extra resources from the Provincial Highway Patrol unit transferred to the Sea to Sky corridor to assist with policing the highway.
“That’ll be a full time highway patrol officer up here strictly doing highway enforcement, which will be excellent,” said Cpl. Vadik.
Moreover, a stakeholders meeting with community leaders, officials, and the public was held on Oct. 1 to raise community awareness on this issue.
Some of the long-term strategies developed during this meeting included:
• Giving a community presentation to all age groups on the effects of drinking and driving;
• Running a news series on highway driving related topics;
• Setting up a live scenario crash scene;
• Organizing a drinking and driving awareness campaign;
• Launching a Speed Watch community program similar to the one in Nanaimo; and
• Increasing signage along the highway.
The RCMP will also hold a public meeting on Monday, Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. at Pemberton Secondary to continue to engage the community in local policing issues.