Fatal accident raises more safety concerns for highway between Lake Country and Kelowna

Highways ministry in planning stages for installing safety meridians on deadly stretch of road between Kelowna and Lake Country

The District of Lake Country is renewing its call for safety meridians on the stretch of highway 97 between Lake Country and Kelowna after another fatal motor vehicle accident near Duck Lake on the weekend.

A 48-year-old woman died on Saturday after reports stated the SUV she was driving crossed the centre line and collided with a semi tractor trailer unit. The accident closed the highway for up top three hours as RCMP investigated.

The accident is the latest in a long and deadly history on the road between Lake Country and Kelowna, a four-lane stretch of heavily-driven highway.

And the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure says they are in the planning process to move forward with safety improvements to the highway between Kelowna and Lake Country.

“We monitor our highways for safety and this is clearly an area that needs some attention,” said Murray Tekano, district manager of transportation for the Ministry of Highways. “We’re in the process of planning these improvements, identifying what can be done and how it can be done.”

According to witnesses, a southbound Volkswagen Tiguan crossed two lanes of traffic and impacted a northbound commercial vehicle that had been travelling in the outside lane.The force of the collision disintegrated the front end of the Volkswagen and caused extensive damages to the commercial truck. The female driver of the Volkswagen suffered extensive traumatic injuries and died in the crash. The two occupants of the commercial truck both suffered relatively minor injuries and were treated at the scene.

Police say road conditions were not a factor in the accident.

In September, Lake Country fire chief Steve Windsor reported that there was a substantial increase in traffic accidents between Lake Country and Kelowna this year and had sent a request to the Ministry of Transportation  asking about the possibility of safety meridians. At the UBCM meeting later that month in Whistler Lake Country officials reiterated the request for the safety barriers to be installed.

“We’ve been at them for sometime that they should have those barriers installed,” said Lake Country mayor James Baker. “It seems they are listening and we should start to see them at least design where they could put them. They have to look at how many accesses they will have to permit because in some places there are properties that need access to both directions.”

Tekano says public consultation will have to take place with residences and businesses that operate on the stretch of highway, with access the biggest issue. He estimates it would be late spring before consultation could take place.

Lake Country fire officials responded to the accident just before 2 p.m. Saturday and were on scene until about 5 p.m. when the highway was opened.

Windsor said the highway is known for the speed at which vehicles travel making accidents hard to avoid.

“It’s just a high speed highway and for whatever reason if you have inattention, you have very little time to correct it,” said Windsor. “At those kinds of speeds, it’s just a millisecond and if you drift at all you can be in the other lane very, very quickly.”

Windsor a substantial amount of diesel fuel was spilled in the accident but crews built a berm using sand to keep the fuel from running into Duck Lake.

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