Government officials in the Elk Valley are working on solutions to improve safety for buses stopping on busy motorways, following an accident involving a school bus, yesterday.
The accident took place on Highway 3 in Hosmer, between Fernie and Sparwood.
The collision involved a semi, a motorhome and a school bus, and left the driver of the motorhome with serious injuries.
According to RCMP, the school bus had stopped on Highway 3 in Hosmer, near Lynch Road and the Snowy Peaks RV trailer court. A motorhome travelling on the highway came to a stop, however a transport truck travelling in the same direction as the motorhome failed to stop, rear-ended the motorhome and caused it to collide with the school bus.
There were reportedly two children on the bus at the time, but they were not injured.
In reflection of the accident, Sparwood Mayor David Wilks and Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) Area A Director Mike Sosnowski admitted they don’t know the exact solution to the problem, but both conceded that the situation could have been a lot worse.
“We got lucky, that’s all – that’s all you can say, is we got lucky,” said Sosnowski.
Sosnowski suggested that perhaps the bus could have pulled off into Snowy Peaks RV trailer court to avoid stopping on the highway. He added he would be following up with School District 5 in regards to their policy and procedures concerning buses stopping on the highway.
Wilks stated that the bus driver did everything he/she was supposed to; stop traffic and allow students to leave the bus and cross the highway safely.
“The buses are required to stop on the highway,” said Wilks. “It stops traffic. If there’s children that have to cross the highway, they cross safely.”
The mayor admitted that in a 100 km/hr zone, things can go wrong very quickly.
He believes an increase in visibility could have potentially prevented the accident.
“I don’t know what the answer is, I really don’t, but visibility is one thing, and we’ve done some really good improvements with school buses over the years, but maybe we need to do more,” said Wilks.
He referenced how much the visibility of emergency vehicles has evolved over the years, to where their lights are now high-visibility LEDs. These, he said, you can see from a long way off.
Wilks suggested that perhaps the next step is to go to the provincial government in order to mandate that all school buses in B.C. have LED strobe lighting installed on the front, roof and rear of the vehicle.
“It’s not going to stop accidents from happening but what you’re trying to do is eliminate, as best you can, what happened yesterday,” he said.
Asked if overhead signage with ‘bus stops here’ was a viable solution, Sosnowski said that frequent stops could possibly make this project too large to tackle. Adding to this, Wilks explained that although there are currently students living in the trailer court, he suggested that this might not always be the case, and signage like this could become irrelevant.
“I think, personally, you focus on the school bus and you see how you can make it even better,” said Wilks.
In a meeting with the RDEK Thursday evening, Wilks proposed to bring this matter back to the board next month to further discuss solutions.
The Free Press previously reported that the RDEK was making plans to install a new intersection in the area of where the accident occurred, in order to improve safety for those turning off the highway.
Currently the stretch of Highway 3 that passes through the town of Hosmer is two-lane only, with no dedicated turning lanes close to several residences and a trailer court.
The stretch of highway is known by locals as dangerous, as any eastbound traffic wishing to turn left off of the highway into Snowy Peaks RV trailer court must rely on those behind them to stop, or pull around them using the shoulder of the highway. In addition, anyone wishing to leave the trailer court bound for Fernie do not have a dedicated merging lane. All of these issues aim to be addressed in the new project.
Sosnowski said the design for the new intersection is nearly complete, and that the RDEK has committed to their funding contribution of $1M. He said they are now waiting for the Province to commit to their portion of the funding.