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These are the most dangerous locations for traffic accidents in Metro Vancouver


“The road is probably the most dangerous place, the most complex place, we will ever be in our lives,” said one road safety expert

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This story is part of a series examining road safety in the Lower Mainland. Read more about making our roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

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Vehicle collisions at just five locations in Metro Vancouver injured or killed 2,800 people over the past five years, according to an analysis of ICBC collision data from 2016-20. Two of the locations were bridges, two were on highways, and the fifth was 88 Avenue and King George Boulevard in Surrey.

All the locations shared characteristics that road safety experts say are the primary factors leading to collisions: high volumes of traffic and high speeds.

“The more vehicles you have, the more likely you are to have collisions. It’s just the physics of it,” said Raheem Dilgir, president of TranSafe , a road safety consultancy. “And the faster the vehicle is going, the more likely it is to cause damage.”

Traffic collisions killed 193 people and injured more than 170,000 others in Metro Vancouver during those five years, according to Postmedia’s analysis of ICBC’s data. The figures only account for vehicle drivers and passengers, not pedestrians or cyclists.

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There were 776 collisions that resulted in casualties on the Alex Fraser Bridge from 2016-20 — the most of any location in Metro Vancouver. The Knight Street Bridge and the junction of 264 Street and the Trans-Canada Highway in Langley came second and third, with roughly 535 accidents each.

Dilgir said that a high-risk factor shared by bridges and highways — particularly on- and off-ramps — is the need to merge drivers moving at different speeds.

“The differences in speed between vehicles are a large part of the (collision) equation,” he said. “Somebody is going to get frustrated and start passing or tailgating.”

One solution is to give drivers moving at different speeds more space to merge. “Give the vehicles more of a chance to catch up to the highway speed or the major road speed before entering it,” Dilgir said.

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Roundabouts are starting to be used more frequently at on- or off-ramp intersections, an option Dilgir called “quite appropriate.”

“Any opportunity to put in a roundabout should be explored,” he said, since they slow all drivers to a uniform speed, while allowing an uninterrupted traffic flow.

A driver makes a u-turn as cars pass through the intersection at 88th Avenue and King George Boulevard in Surrey on Thursday.
A driver makes a u-turn as cars pass through the intersection at 88th Avenue and King George Boulevard in Surrey on Thursday. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

There was a total of 511 collisions at the intersection of 88 Avenue and King George Boulevard in Surrey, although casualties have declined since 2016. Road safety improvements were made at the intersection, including dedicated left-turn signals and bus lanes.

“At that level of traffic volume, there’s very little that you can do,” Dilgir said, noting the intersection has almost enough traffic to justify an interchange — effectively an overpass separating traffic.

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The King George corridor serves a diverse mix of users, including long-distance trucks, buses, commuters, pedestrians and a variety of commercial activity. All of which makes road safety along the road especially complex, said Dilgir.

“There’s just so much happening there, that something’s bound to happen when these different user groups come together,” he said.

Dilgir said encouraging as many people as possible to use transit would improve safety up and down the corridor. “Buses are by far the safest mode of travel,” he said, “The more people you have in buses, the safer your route is going to be, even if you’re moving the same amount of people.”

Shabnem Afzal, Surrey’s road safety manager, said city council unanimously approved a new road safety plan in 2019 that targeted 50 “high-risk” intersections for safety improvements. Part of that includes pushing for more transit use.

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“I think we need to really think about changing the modes that people travel by,” she said. “It’s about moving the mindset and the power away from the drivers.”

Federal guidance would also help, by speeding up the process of improving road safety, locally and across the country, said Dilgir.

“There’s definitely a need for more federal regulation and encouraging consistent (design) principles and standards” around road systems, he said.

Afzal agreed. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had some federal and maybe even more provincial leadership around the safety issue?” she asked.

ngriffiths@postmedia.com

twitter.com/njgriffiths


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