There is no way to make every portion of our extensive highway network 100 per cent safe, but what is the price of a life?
How about two? Or in the case of Skye and Courtenay Buck - if you count their unborn child as a person - three.
The much-loved teachers from Clearwater died Sunday after their vehicle went out of control on icy roads and tumbled down a 30-foot embankment into the fast-flowing North Thompson River.
It raises questions about highway safety at that location, leaving people wondering if cement barriers might have prevented the tragedy.
According to ICBC crash data, since 1996 there have been 10 fatal crashes along Highway 5 between Clearwater and Little Fort claiming 12 lives (the corporation's data doesn't go back further than that). But none of these accidents were at Wolf's Corner, 17 kilometres south of Clearwater, where the Bucks died.
The B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure says cost is no deterrent when it comes installing items like guardrails if it is determined barriers will improve safety in a location. At Wolf's Corner, a ministry spokesperson said there is a gradual curve to the right and the river is on the inside of the curve. Typically, the highest risk sections of roads are on the outside of curves.
"That section of road has a very low accident history," ministry spokeswoman Kate Trotter wrote in an email.
After any serious highway crash, she said ministry staff work with police and other agencies to determine "contributing factors," including road design. An assessment also looks at what caused the crash, crash history, crash trends at that site and possible safety improvements. She assured the government will take any recommendations that would make the road safer very seriously.
We hope the fact that other fatalities have not occurred at Wolf's Corner before is not a factor in the ministry's decision. Two people dying there is two too many. The steep dropoff there and this tragedy should be reason enough for it to receive critical consideration, as should other areas of highway adjacent to steep dropoffs, like near Savona.
We shouldn't wait until someone dies to fix dangerous portions of highway.
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