Calls for road safety upgrades after young Kelowna man dies on Highway 97

Simon-Pierre Houde was driving home on Friday evening from his mushroom farm job in Summerland, when he was struck by another vehicle and killed on Highway 97 near Peachland.

The collision that claimed the 24-year-old Kelowna man’s life happened on a notorious stretch of the highway that’s known for serious accidents.

The deadly crash happened on a section of road known as Drought Hill.

Police said that a southbound Buick Sedan crossed the centre line and struck Houde’s Maza head-on.

Houde died at the scene.

Simon-Pierre Houde, 24, died when the car he was driving Friday night was struck head-on by another vehicle on Drought Hill along Highway 97 near Peachland.

Simon-Pierre Houde, 24, died when the car he was driving Friday night was struck head-on by another vehicle on Drought Hill along Highway 97 near Peachland.

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“I just thought it was horrible,” said Chad Garrecht of West Kelowna  “I couldn’t believe that another person lost their life on that road.”

Garrecht has lived in the Central Okanagan for 30 years. Both he and his wife drive on that stretch of road almost daily.

“When I’m driving it, I hug the shoulder as much as I can so I am far away from that centre line,” he told Global News.

“My wife drives it every day. I’m worried that she’s coming home from work in the dark. It’s a major, major concern and it scares me every day.”

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That’s why Garrecht has started an online petition urging the government to take action to help save lives.

“I would like to see a centre divider put all the way down Highway 97, from the top of Drought Hill all the way through Summerland, where it’s all single lane, 90 kilometres an hour going both ways,” Garrecht said.

“I think if they put a centre divider in, at least it’s going to stop these crossing centre-line, head-on collisions.”

Peachland’s mayor, Cindy Fortin, expressed sadness over the deadly crash and anger that nothing has been done to improve safety

“This is ridiculous, this is taking too long,” Fortin told Global News. “I can’t count anymore how many times I’ve asked that we get something done.”

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Fortin said that local government officials have long called for improvements, such as cement barriers to be installed in the middle of the road.

“Like they put in several years ago around Gorman’s mill,” said Fortin, “and that stopped a lot of the cross-over, head-on collisions, completely as far as I know.”

In an email to Global News, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said it has completed its engineering analysis of Highway 97 from Peachland to Summerland, and has determined that segments of the highway are warranted for median barrier installation.

But it added that the section of the highway on Drought Hill, where last Friday’s crash occurred, is not part of the planned median barrier corridor.

The ministry also said that the Drought Hill section was reviewed in 2016 and any further improvements will be considered as part of the Peachland Transportation Study, which is looking at ways to improve safety, travel times and congestion moving in and through Peachland and the Central Okanagan region.

The ministry said it is planning further public engagement for the study in the coming months, and people will be able to provide feedback at that time.

In the meantime, you can click here if you would like to sign the online petition.

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

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