It’s difficult to put a price on saving lives. But that’s essentially the choice we face, according to a report released Wednesday that wants the province to fund a new traffic enforcement unit focused on the Malahat.
The sheer volume of traffic that crosses the Malahat every day — an average of 22,000 vehicles and as many as 36,000 in the summer months — means that even an insignificant fender-bender can cause unreasonable delays.
Of the 58 collisions that happen on the Malahat on average every year, 75 per cent shut down either one lane or the entire highway.
Last April’s fuel spill, caused when a tanker truck driver lost control, kept some people trapped on either side of the highway for 22 hours.
At its worst, the highway can be a killer. The twists and cliff faces are unforgiving for anyone unfortunate enough to lose focus even for a moment. Every year, two to four people will die on the road, while almost half of the annual collisions end up with someone in hospital.
Things improved last summer when a co-ordinated effort by regional police departments succeeded in lowering the number of collisions on the Malahat.
More experience could only further improve the effort, which makes us curious about why this approach hasn’t been tried before.
Much has been said about the need for alternative routes. It always comes back to cost, whether to extend ferry service from Mill Bay to Brentwood or to somehow expand the existing road.
Installing more median barriers to help prevent head-on collisions and a strong police presence is a sound alternative.
The barriers are a relatively cheap and quick solution to save lives (two people perished separate head-on collisions in October and December). A 15 member dedicated patrol unit would come with an estimated $1 million annual price tag.
It seems like a lot of money unless you’re talking to those who have lost someone on the highway.