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UPDATED: 7 fatal collisions in West Kootenay since May: RCMP

Inspector from BC Highway Patrol gives tips on road safety
Insp. Chad Badry urges West Kootenay drivers to slow down and pay attention on the road.

BC Highway Patrol has responded to seven fatal collisions in the West Kootenay area since the beginning of May and 23 collisions that resulted in serious injury, as of July 8.

Insp. Chad Badry, officer in charge of the BC Highway Patrol for the region, says that the patrol is called in for serious, fatal collisions with the potential for criminal charges. Badry and his officers patrol from Rock Creek to the top of the Kootenay Pass, north to Nakusp, and south to the U.S. border.

The causes of most collisions, according to Badry, are either impaired driving, distracted driving, or speed. These same causes are responsible for the majority of collisions in B.C.

At least three of the fatal collisions in the West Kootenay area involved motorcyclists. 

Badry says that while motorcyclists account for only about three per cent of traffic, they are involved in 13 per cent of all fatal collisions in BC.

"For motorcyclists and for all the other vehicles that are around, the roadway is a dynamic environment with situations and circumstances that can change really quickly and both motorcyclists and drivers need to keep their eyes on the road because if you have a moment where you're not paying attention, it can really increase the chance of a collision or a crash."

Avoiding a crash or collision due to impaired driving is as simple as not getting behind the wheel, whether you've taken drugs, prescription medication that impairs your ability to drive, or alcohol. 

Avoiding a collision due to excessive speed is a matter of slowing down and following speed limits. 

"We have a culture of speed in this province, where people seem to think that they can exceed the speed limit, and the speed limits are there for a reason," says Badry. "It's not just to keep you safe as a driver, but it keeps everybody else safe."

The inspector is pleased that new provincial regulations introduced on June 3 now allow RCMP officers to protect vulnerable road users, with regulations requiring motorists to move over when they are passing vulnerable road users on the highway. Those who don't can now be fined. 

"Vulnerable road users include pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, individuals on animals or in vehicles pulled by animals, and people who use electric wheelchairs, mobility scooters and electric kick scooters," according to the province.

Drivers must keep a minimum distance when passing these road users, depending on their speed. On highways with speeds of 50 km/h or less, the distance is one metre, and on highways with speeds of 51 km/h or more, the distance is one and a half metres.

For road users who are in separated and protected cycling lanes and on sidewalks, drivers must allow a minimum of half a metre. 

Overall, Badry feels the province has done a good job consulting with RCMP and giving officers tools to protect road users.

"In British Columbia, they do extensive consultation with the British Columbia Association of Chiefs of Police. They are constantly updating and amending acts and regulations, all with the goal to make our roads safe."

In 2022, the Province of BC announced $230 million in funding for rural policing over three years. Hiring additional officers for BC Highway Patrol was one of the priorities identified for that funding. 

"That's a really great thing to improve road safety is to provide some additional funding to make all the enforcement efforts we can and all the investigative efforts we can," says Badry.

With summer in full swing, Badry wants to remind motorists that there will be more tourists sharing the highways. There is also typically an increase in impaired driving and speeding during the summer months. Badry recommends keeping all of this in mind and planning for extra time when you head out on the roads.

"Drive with caution. Don't drive distracted. Don't drive impaired. Keep your speed down."