The Sea to Sky Highway’s reputation as a dangerous road will be just one focus of the Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals (CARSP) conference, to be held in Whistler from June 8 th to 11 th .
Taking place at the Telus Conference Centre, the CARSP conference will bring professionals such as behavioural scientists, psychologists and numerous others to Whistler to discuss issues related to road safety, said Mavis Johnson, a conference organizer and member of CARSP’s board of directors.
One of the topics for discussion at the conference will be Road Safety Vision 2010, a national strategy administered by Transport Canada that aims to ensure Canada has the safest roads in the world.
But according to Johnson, it could use some souping-up.
“We're looking for people who can help us move beyond road
safety Vision 2010,” she said. “Where do we need to be looking in the next
decade to improve safety on the roads in Canada?”
Road Safety Vision 2010 aims to do a number of things,
including raising public awareness of road safety issues and toughening
The opening speaker at the conference will be Brian Jonah,
director of road safety programs at Transport Canada, whose talk, “Road Safety
Vision 2010 and Beyond,” will focus on how Canada can build on the safety
initiatives to which it has already committed.
The closing speaker, meanwhile, will be Philip Allan from the
department of transport in Adelaide, South Australia, who will talk about
Australian road safety.
Australia, Johnson said, is a world leader in international
road safety, along with countries such as the United Kingdom and Sweden.
“They’re already looking at where they need to be looking
next,” Johnson said. “I definitely think (Philip will) send us away with some
good thoughts about the things that we need to be paying attention to.”
While general road safety initiatives will be a primary area of
focus at the conference, no road safety conference in the corridor would go
forward without giving significant attention to issues surrounding the Sea to
“Even before it was improved, people used to talk about it as
the killer highway or the highway to die and all these other things,” Johnson
said. “I really believe it isn't the road, it's the way that people drive the
She pointed to speed, fatigue and talking on cell phones as
particular factors that affect safety on the highway.
“You do have to respect the highway because it’s a winding
highway,” she said. “There isn’t a lot of room for error because you’ve got the
cliff face on one side and a rock face on the other side.”
“It all has to do with the speed at which drivers drive the
highway, the fact that there’s a lot of tailgating, plus people are fatigued if
they’ve been skiing all day.”
MaryAnne Arcand, director of the B.C. Forest Safety Council’s
Forestry TruckSafe program, will also be speaking at the conference. Her
presentation will focus on how TruckSafe has partnered with various agencies
that have jurisdiction over resource roads to ensure they can communicate with
each other effectively.
She, too, feels the Sea to Sky Highway faces numerous problems
related to road safety, and believes it boils down to driver inattention.
“(There’s) certainly speed, the volume of traffic given the
roads, although I know there’s a lot of improvements being made,” Arcand said.
“People are in a hurry, they want to get to the ski hill and make the most of
their day, but (they may) also (be) fatigued at the end of the day if they’ve
been skiing or drinking.”
As for the “improvements” being made, she was referring to the
construction efforts to make the highway wider. She stopped short of saying
that the construction efforts were outright improvements to the roads, but said
an effort is being made to make the roads safer.
“I can’t honesty say until we see the results,” Arcand said.
“Right now it’s all a mix of construction and waits and slowdowns which causes
people to speed in between, but that’s probably not helping at this point.”
The conference will begin on Sunday with a welcoming at 5:30 p.m. and will complete on Wednesday at approximately 12:30 p.m.