Editorial – Backroad safety

This week's editorial discusses the dangers of driving on the local backroads.

Over the weekend, my aunt and cousins visited Fernie and attended a wedding at Island Lake Lodge. My aunt and her boyfriend were driving down from the Lodge on Friday evening and got into a car accident.

From what I can gather, their car slid off of the road on a corner close the lodge. The Nissan SUV rolled twice before hitting a tree. They were the lone vehicle in the accident, and I have no idea how fast they were travelling the road – a road they were not familar with and driving for the first time. Luckily, my aunt only suffered a scratch on her foot while her boyfriend walked away from the accident unharmed. The vehicle however was not so lucky, and will likely be written off.

The situation impacted what should have been a happy weekend for them. They travelled to Fernie to celebrate a wedding, not to spend the day on the phone with their insurance company. And while no one was seriously injured in this instance, it’s hard not to think about what would have happened had it been worse.

As a recreational destination and an outdoor enthusiast hub, the Elk Valley has an extensive backroad network. This allows for access to the great outdoors in areas like the Bull River and Morrissey.

However, there is a risk to driving the backroads, as the roads are often narrower and rockier. Perhaps the biggest risk of all is because they are often less-travelled, it can be a huge shock to see a car coming at you from around a tight corner.

As a seasoned tree planter, I have ventured into many backroad networks, and have seen the risk first hand. In one instance, about six years ago, my crew was driving on a road in the Okanagan when another planting truck came speeding at us around the corner. We had been calling out our location over the radio to avoid this exact situation but it didn’t help – the radio in the other vehicle was so loud that the drive couldn’t hear our calls.

What makes driving on these roads fun is also what makes them slightly dangerous – the lack of traffic. It can encourage over-confidence and makes it hard to get assistance if it is ever needed, in the event of a crash of even just a simple flat tire.

The backroads provide us the ability to venture into remote areas and to play in the mountains we love. However, I urge everyone to drive with care on them. It can be easy to forget that the roads are shared – shared with animals, bikes, quads and other cars – when you don’t see anyone else for miles.