Editorial: How to make the Malahat safer

The road itself is not the problem when it comes to the Malahat highway, the drivers are.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: the road itself is not the problem when it comes to the Malahat highway, the drivers are.

The mountain pass that divides the Cowichan Valley from the greater Victoria area was in the news a lot last week.

First, the provincial government announced that a study of the matter has concluded that the highway isn’t closed often enough to warrant the massive amount of money it would take to build a dedicated secondary route. Then, the road was closed for several hours after a crash blocked both lanes of traffic on the southern end of the route.

Then on Wednesday a group called SenseBC came out with a bunch of interesting crash data for the Malahat, detailing what the most common contributing factors are to crashes on the roadway. The RCMP also noted a speed trap on the highway on Sunday, Dec. 8 led to 19 tickets for excessive speeding (more than 40 km/h over the limit) and 63 for regular speeding (up to 40 km/h over the limit).

First, we think the government made a wise choice not to spend a whole bunch of money on a bypass. It’s inconvenient, sure, when the road is closed for any length of time. But that’s really a very rare occurrence. There are bypasses now, though they’re not particularly fun if you’re trying to get somewhere in a hurry. They include the Mill Bay ferry and the Pacific Marine Circle Route out of the Cowichan Lake area.

The crash data from SenseBC showed that the most common factors in crashes were inattention from drivers, road conditions, driving too fast for those conditions, following too closely, adverse weather, animals, driver error and speeding. Many of these things are within a driver’s control.

People need to drive more carefully when they hit the Malahat — and most other roads as well. Don’t sit on someone’s bumper. Slow down when the weather is bad. Stay off your cell phone and limit other distractions. And some folks, like those caught on Dec. 8, just need to take a deep breath and slow down altogether.

That’s how we make the Malahat safer.

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