B.C. mayor pushes for added safety measures following fatal crashes along stretch of Highway 5

Barriere Mayor Ward Stamer wants province to consider reducing speed limits, commercial vehicle dashcams

In the wake of two fatal crashes along Highway 5 north of Kamloops, B.C., the mayor of a local municipality wants the province to consider added safety measures such as reduced speed limits and mandatory dashboard cameras for commercial vehicles.

A driver was killed and a passenger taken to hospital on Feb. 9 following a collision on the highway near Louis Creek, B.C., involving two commercial vehicles and a pickup truck. 

Almost exactly one week earlier, another driver was killed when two commercial vehicles collided on the same stretch of Highway 5, about 16 kilometres further south near McLure.

Ward Stamer, the mayor of Barriere, B.C., says there has been an increase in crashes along a roughly 40-kilometre stretch of Highway 5 outside of Kamloops where the roadway reduces from four lanes to two lanes.

“All of a sudden you’re just on a regular two-lane highway and you’re getting into some rock cuts and fairly winding, twisty roads,” Stamer said.

“Combine that with changing weather conditions and it can be a recipe for disaster when the speed limit is 100 [km/h] and there’s no way of slowing that traffic down.”

He is calling for improved safety measures for the area, such as temporary speed reductions during winter. He also wants to look at making dashcams mandatory for all commercial vehicles in B.C., saying it would make drivers more accountable and provide evidence when crashes do occur.

Privacy concerns

The B.C. Trucking Association (BCTA), which represents around 26,000 people operating 13,000 vehicles in the province, says at least half of its members have dashcams in their vehicles.

BCTA’s president and CEO, Dave Earle, says he is not opposed to Stamer’s call for mandatory dashcams in commercial vehicles, but lawmakers need to be mindful of drivers’ privacy.

“A commercial vehicle is a moving workplace, and what that means is there are other areas of law that do apply and one of them is, of course, privacy,” Earle said.

Greg Munden, managing director of transport company LOTS Group Canada, says his company installed dashcams in its fleet of 50 trucks six years ago.

Munden admits drivers were initially reluctant to have dashcams inside their vehicles due to privacy concerns, but they quickly embraced the idea.

“Certainly the pros far outweigh the cons, and it’s just a really inexpensive … step that you can take down the path of safety,” he said.

‘Taking local concerns seriously’

Stamer says the province has increased maintenance on Highway 5 and increased safety patrols.

“But obviously, it’s not making a difference,” he said.

He wants the government to invest in Highway 5, potentially widening the roadway and implementing other safety measures, as it has with its Highway 1 expansion to Chase, B.C. and a four-lane and brake-check area for commercial vehicles outside of Revelstoke.

In a statement emailed to CBC News, B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation confirmed it has increased patrols by its commercial vehicle safety and enforcement branch and is reviewing the section of highway where the Feb. 9 crash occurred to see if additional safety measures are warranted.

“Safety on our highways is a top priority,” said the statement. “That’s why the ministry continues its work to increase road safety within the commercial transport sector.”

The ministry did not comment on whether the province is considering reducing speed limits on Highway 5 around Barriere or making dashcams mandatory.

It said it is looking at introducing electronic logging devices that monitor driver hours of service and is exploring the use of speed limiters to keep drivers within posted limits.

Stamer says he hopes to meet with Transportation Minister Rob Fleming this week to discuss his concerns and press for more immediate action.