With the nasty statistic that there are an average of 1,700 vehicle crashes in British Columbia over the May long weekend resulting in 500 injuries and three deaths, the RCMP are setting up roadblocks and even enlisting a helicopter to keep drivers safe on the Sea to Sky Highway.
“There will be a big roadblock in Whistler this weekend. We’re looking for impaired drivers during the May long weekend,” Cpl. Robert McDonald of the RCMP’s Lower Mainland Traffic Services said in an interview.
In a practice run on Thursday, May 16, the RCMP set up a roadblock at Lions Bay, north of West Vancouver. McDonald said they are using a different approach to catching dangerous drivers — having their Air One helicopter watch the drivers from above.
“We’ve been driving up and down the highway trying to catch people with radar, but you can only do one or two at a time. So what we did this time is to put policemen at Lions Bay and we use Air One to go from West Vancouver, flying down the highway. Once they spot a vehicle at excessive speed, they just follow it until Lions Bay, where it is pulled over,” McDonald explained.
“If there are two or three vehicles (that need watching) they can track those vehicles until Lions Bay and there are enough policemen there to take care of the situation.”
Air One will also be in use on Saturday, along a further stretch of the route up to Whistler, in a similar way.
“The Squamish and Whistler highway patrols will also be there, and our integrated road safety unit will be on the highway for the entire weekend, moving up and down the highway. They will be doing road blocks in two shifts, during the day and the evening,” McDonald said.
“The priority is high risk driving: tailing gating, speeding… we just want people to be safe on a long weekend when the weather is nice. We’ve got a beautiful province, enjoy the view, concentrate on your driving and get there safely.”
McDonald said while the numbers for accidents on Highway 99 were not available, around the Lower Mainland it is likely that around 1,100 accidents will result in 340 injuries this weekend.
“Our numbers of fatalities have been going down over the past few years because of the more concentrated effort on the causal factors of fatalities. We know impaired driving has a huge impact on fatalities, so we’ve been cracking down on destructive driving,” Cpl. McDonald said.
Jill Blacklock of ICBC’s road safety program said in a release:
“Tailgating, failing to yield or speeding may seem harmless, but they increase your risk of crashing. We want to help drivers avoid these high-risk driving behaviours so that our roads are safer for everone. Fewer crashes and injuries will also lower claim costs and help keep rates as low as possible.”
The May long weekend comes at the end of Canada Road Safety Week.