Highway Closures

Road Closed Ahead SignWe have come to expect that our highways will always be open to us to use at any time under all conditions. When something occurs, such as a serious collision, some drivers still think that their convenience takes priority over all other issues and the highway should not be closed to them.

This was the case yesterday when firefighters were directing traffic at a collision in an intersection. Drivers were aggressively disregarding instructions aimed at keeping the scene safe for emergency personnel as well as to share the open lanes with the traffic that was present.

Any highway closure is actually the responsibility of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, usually accomplished through the Road Maintenance Contractor. Vancouver Island Highway Patrol has agreed with the Ministry that closures of 30 minutes or less in duration can be managed by the police. Similar agreements may be in place elsewhere in our province.

If the closure is going to be longer than that period of time, it becomes the responsibility of the Road Maintenance Contractor who will provide the necessary manpower and equipment to close the highway and look after redirection of traffic if it is possible.

Police do have powers to direct traffic as set out in the Motor Vehicle Act and often use them to effect temporary closures in order to facilitate rescue operations during a serious crash.

The police have the responsibility to investigate a crash properly. Due to the nature of some crash scenes in order to gather the evidence completely and safely, the highway must be closed for a period of time.

The Occupational Health and Safety Regulation requires that "effective traffic control is provided and used whenever traffic could be hazardous to a worker." This would include all other personnel at the scene including fire, Emergency Health Services and towing.

In the case of the aggressive drivers mentioned earlier, the firefighters were acting as traffic control persons and their directions must be obeyed.

If you were the victim in a crash, you would expect any needed emergency assistance and that the police to do a thorough investigation. With that expectation comes the duty to extend the same consideration to others. This may include being inconvenienced by not having the expected use of the highway.

Know before you go: Current Highway Incidents on DriveBC Website

 

Comments

Lengthy closures

What bothers me is the length of closures. With the technology available today and the use of drones it should be possible to take 3D images of the accident scene and get the highway open to single lane alternating traffic at least.

In the last 11 days there have been two extended closures. One involving an accident I found out after 4 hours. When I went by the sign on the way home it advised me the highway was open. When I checked the website same. Yet at this point the road had been closed for 4 hours and apparently didn't open for another 3.5 hours. I don't know if DriveBC ever did put the closure up. So checking DriveBC in some cases is a waste of time. Updates are extremely slow.

Another one was a slide. I have never checked on how these are handled but for the flagman to drive around is a 3.5 hr. drive. A trucker I know that was caught in it did see a flagging vehicle eventually drive by. In this case he sat there for 12 hours and nobody ever came and told them what was going on. On this section of road there is no radio or cell phone reception.

Now a slide is entirely different than an accident. But why is there nothing put in place to notify people what is going on? A lot of 4 lane sections there is a concrete divider between lanes so one can't even turn around and go back.

I know of situations where the highway has been closed in the middle of the day, high traffic volume, while a trailer is unloaded. Why not open the road and let traffic through then put in alternating traffic over night when traffic volume is low?

As much as I complain I would never disregard people directing traffic yet I can see the frustration of others. Unfortunately for some involved in the emergency services it appears no thought has been put in how can we improve this for the road user. I'm sure it has come down to a authority issue and I'm the only one that matters. Traffic flow by incidences has changed over the last several years where today it is standard to have closures of several hours where in the past it would have been for a short period of time.

Nobody is upset while those that are injured are safely removed and on their way to hospital. What upsets people is the unnecessary time. In the series "Highway Through Hell" the theme is "Closure is not an option", yet in reality "closure is the only option".

There is always two sides of every story. What those that are imposing closure on the hundreds or thousands of other road users should be how can I make this easier for them? Not always what works the best for me?

And a final thought. Have you given any consideration to the people in the line-ups? How about the people that run out of gas? The family with kids that have eaten all the snacks and are hungry? Or the parent that is looking for a place for a child to go to the bathroom where getting off the road is impossible? The commercial driver that has run out of hours? And what about the people that can't get home or to work because the road is blocked? This last one does not necessarily mean those that cannot get by the scene but also people in small communities where some of the roads are completely blocked because the authorities have not managed the traffic. It happens and far to often.

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