Online petition for safety barriers along stretch of Highway 97 in Okanagan quickly growing

Winter weather is causing treacherous conditions on Highway 97 in the Okanagan. One person was killed, another seriously injured in a collision last week. Now, an online petition demanding the B.C. Ministry of Transportation make safety improvements to the dangerous stretch of highway is accumulating thousands of signatures. Shelby Thom reports.

An online petition to put safety barriers on Highway 97 between Summerland and Peachland has grown quickly, according to the organizer.

Mick Harper says just hours after hearing of Thursday’s fatal vehicle incident on Highway 97, just north of Summerland, he decided to post a petition on the website change.org.

The crash happened at approximately 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, with the highway being shut down for several hours while debris was cleared and police investigated.

READ MORE:
One person died in Highway 97 crash north of Summerland

According to police, the incident involved a semi and a sedan. A passenger in the sedan was killed, while the driver sustained serious injuries. The semi driver was also injured.

“People are being injured and dying on a particular section of Highway 97 between Summerland and Peachland,” reads the petition’s opening statement.

“In parts, the road is steep, has sharp corners, and the slope of the road in the corners is low on the outside, making it dangerous especially in winter conditions. Drivers who go too fast or don’t adjust their speed for road conditions often drift into oncoming traffic causing serious harm or death.”

The petition continued, stating “it’s time for the Province of B.C., Premier Horgan, and the Honourable Claire Trevena, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure to install concrete barriers in between the two directions of traffic. This will hopefully prevent further accidents causing injury or death.”

The petition has gathered more than 6,500 signatures as of Saturday at 3 p.m.

Contacted on Saturday, Harper said he currently lives in Prince George, but was raised in the Okanagan, going to school in Summerland and Penticton, and is highly familiar with that stretch of Highway 97.

“I’m in the Okanagan several times a year,” said Harper. “And I’ve driven that patch of road, along Highway 97, more times than I can count.”

As to why he started the petition, Harper said that highway section is “definitely unsafe, and I’ve seen too many reports of accidents, where there were either serious injuries or fatalities.

“And I have seen in other parts of Highway 97 where there have been a series of bad accidents over a period of time, and concrete barriers have gone up shortly thereafter to make the road safer.

“My question was: why hasn’t that been done? So I thought: why don’t we ask?”

Global News has reached out to MLA Dan Ashton.

Regarding the petition and its quick growth, Harper said when he first heard about the accident, he was gutted.

“The trauma that goes along with that, people are scarred for life because of these things,” he said, adding his wife sparked the idea of the online petition.

“So it went up 11 o’clock or midnight on Thursday night, and within 24 hours, we had over 1,000 signatures. Now it’s not even 48 hours since the petition went up, and we’re approaching 7,000.

“It’s obviously struck a chord. There’s thousands of people who travel that stretch of road every year, and, obviously, a great many people feel that section of Highway 97 is not safe.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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