Truck traffic on Highway 1 has dramatically increased since 2014. Tyler Olsen/Abbotsford News

Truck traffic on Highway 1 has dramatically increased since 2014. Tyler Olsen/Abbotsford News

Highway crashes double in Fraser Valley, truck traffic also up steeply

Unclear if doubling of Fraser Valley highway crashes is linked to spike in truck traffic

Highway 1 between Langley and Chilliwack now sees an average of three crashes each day – a rate that has more than doubled in the past two years despite no apparent spike in actual traffic.

In 2017, 1,100 crashes occurred on the highway between 232nd Street and Annis Road in Chilliwack according to the ICBC figures. That’s up from 540 just three years prior. Severe crashes are increasing at the same rate, with the 470 incidents resulting in an injury double the 230 that took place in 2014.

Finding the cause, though, isn’t simple.

The number of vehicles using the highway didn’t actually increase much from 2014 to 2017, according to Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure numbers. Over those years, as collision rates were dramatically rising, the number of vehicles travelling between Abbotsford and Langley, increased at a rate of just two per cent each year.

And speeds actually decreased slightly.

One thing that has changed, though, is the amount of truck traffic on Highway 1.

The number of trucks longer than 22.5 metres using the highway has risen by 70 per cent, from a daily average of 1,003 in 2014, to more than 1,700 last year, according to the figures.

“We can’t point a finger at any one thing, it’s a very complex system,” Gord Lovegrove, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia’s school of engineering, said. “But the increase in trucking is also an issue.”

story continues below

Trucking, traffic and crashes
Infogram

That doesn’t necessarily mean the truckers themselves are to blame for the spike in accidents. While BC Trucking Association executive director Dave Earle says truckers have been shown to be the safest drivers on the road, the conduct of other motorists around large vehicles can increase the risk to all drivers.

“As traffic is more and more congested people become more and more likely to switch lanes back and forth looking for the path of least resistance,” he said.

Heavy trucks take much longer to stop, so a driver will leave a larger space in front, Earle said. For other drivers in a hurry, that larger gap becomes a space to use to dart past other cars.

“Drivers generally don’t understand how long it takes a heavy vehicle to come to a stop,” Earle said. “When a passing vehicle dekes into that space, all you can do is hope the truck behind you does not have to stop.”

Earle said there are a number of reasons for the rising number of trucks on Highway 1, including booming development in the Fraser Valley, to a general lack of industrial land in Vancouver that has pushed logistics companies and other haulers further east.

Urbanites might be driving less, he said, “but we still need stuff, we still need food to get to your supermarket.”

And he noted that a survey revealed that BCTA members’ their top wish would be for the provincial government to widen Highway 1 through to Abbotsford.

“We know government is looking at this, but they simply cannot move on this fast enough.”

The need to widen the highway is a frequent refrain from local politicians, including Mayor Henry Braun.

But while the BC Liberals had promised to expand the route through to Abbotsford, the new BC NDP government hasn’t made the same commitment, declaring only that it is studying the issue.

In an emailed response to questions about the issue from The News, a Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure spokesperson wrote: “In terms of expanding the highway past 216th Street, we are assessing the Highway 1 corridor as a whole through the Fraser Valley to determine the best way to cut down on congestion and increase safety. The ministry considers collision data as well as traffic volumes (historic, current and predicted) when planning transportation improvements.”

Days later, though, the province announced that it will be implementing a variable speed system between Prest Road in Chilliwack and the Sumas River bridge in Abbotsford. The hope is to get drivers to slow down before encountering serious congestion.

Meanwhile, on the widening front, not everyone agrees the highway should be enlarged.

Lovegrove says the province should look at electrifying existing and underused rail corridors, which he said would be a cheaper and more long-term fix. But, like the widening of the highway, a move to rail won’t be happening anytime soon. In the meantime, Lovegrove, who sits on two committees looking at an update to the province’s road safety strategy, says stop-gap measures can be implemented to try and reduce the highway danger.

“Everybody’s going to help out. There’s no quick fix here.”


@ty_olsen
tolsen@abbynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Abbotsford Police Department is investigating a shooting on Adair Avenue on Saturday night. (Photo by Dale Klippenstein)
Drive-by shooting in Abbotsford targeted home with young children, police say

Investigators believe home was mistakenly targeted by assailants

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
Abbotsford care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

Morning mist clears over the Hope Slough at Camp River Road on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. (Jessica Peters/ Chilliwack Progress)
WEATHER: Sunny skies in the forecast for Chilliwack and Abbotsford

Rain and wind expected Sunday night through Monday morning, then clear skies

The Abbotsford School District head offices. (Black Press file photo)
Abbotsford school district spent majority of emergency funds on staffing: report

District laid out spending plan for COVID-19 funds received from province and feds

LEFT: Krista Macinnis, with a red handprint across her face that symbolizes the silencing of First Nations people, displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
RIGHT: Abbotsford School District Kevin Godden says the district takes responsibility for the harm the assignment caused.
Abbotsford school district must make amends for harmful residential school assignment: superintendent

‘The first step is to unreservedly apologize for the harm … caused to our community’: Kevin Godden

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

xx
BREAKING: Langley church fined for holding in-person Sunday service

Calvary church was fined $2,300 for defying provincial order

(File photo)
Vancouver police warn of toxic drug supply after 7 people overdose at one party

Seven people between the ages of 25 to 42 were taken to hospital for further treatment.

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Elissa McLaren broke her left elbow in the Sept. 20, 2020 collision. (Submitted)
Surviving victims of fatal crash in Fraser Valley asking for help leading up to Christmas

‘This accident has taken a larger toll financially, mentally and physically than originally intended’

Most Read