The scene of a crash in Surrey in November, 2017 along King George Boulevard near 78th Avenue. (Photo: Shane Mackichan)

Province, Surrey taking action to reduce traffic deaths, injuries

With a record number of collisions in B.C. last year, and 21 people dying on Surrey streets alone, governments are taking new steps to make our roads safer

How many crashes would you guess there are in Surrey every day?

Well, last year, there were 22,678 — or 62 per day.

And, sadly, 21 lives were lost on our city’s roads in 2017. That’s just slightly higher than the annual average of 20.

An upward trend in collisions is not unique to Surrey, but in fact, is being seen province-wide, with a record 350,000 crashes last year alone — 60 per cent of them at intersections.

In an effort to reduce death and serious injuries on B.C. roads, the provincial government announced Tuesday that its 140 “high-crash” intersection cameras will now operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That includes 29 in Surrey.

The cameras had previously been activated for six hours a day during high traffic times.

See more: MAP: 29 Surrey ‘high-crash’ intersection cameras now live around the clock

The province says an average of more than 11,000 crashes occur at these 140 “high-crash intersections” each year.

The upgrade began last fall, as the B.C. government struggles with accident and injury claims that have pushed ICBC rates up in recent years.

“The full activation of these cameras is overdue and an important step for safety on some of our busiest roadways,” said B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth in a release.

The move means drivers will now have a higher chance of getting a red-light ticket.

Red-light camera tickets are handed out when a vehicle enters an intersection after the signal light turns red. The vehicle’s registered owner is responsible for the ticket even if they are not driving, but does not receive penalty points on their licence.

More safety upgrades are expected via these cameras, later this year.

In March the provincial government announced plans to add technology at certain “Intersection Safety Camera” locations to ticket the fastest drivers passing through those intersections on red, yellow or green lights.

“Analysis of crash and speed data is ongoing to determine which locations will receive this technology,” a government press release notes. “New signs will warn approaching drivers about the enhanced intersection enforcement. The number and locations of the speed-activated cameras will be announced in fall 2018.”

See also: Surrey council approves $360M Congestion Relief Strategy to speed up traffic

See also: Surrey creating road safety plan after ‘concerning’ stats from ICBC

Meantime, Surrey city hall is busy working on a plan of its own to help reduce the “concerning” trends.

“Really, when you look at the data, even though there’s been efforts going on, we’re seeing an increase in injuries in the past five years,” said Jaime Boan, Surrey’s Transportation Manager.

“The number of collisions are too high. They’re significant, and there’s a cost to society. While fatalities haven’t really moved, there’s a significant increase each year to injuries which have gone up 17 per cent over the last five years.

“That’s a problem,” he added.

Even when factoring in population growth, “the trend is still not going in the right direction,” Boan noted. “We know we’ve got to take more significant steps than what we have take in the past.”

Boan said that’s why the city is producing the Surrey Safe Mobility Plan – Vision Zero, to try to reverse the trend.

“We’ve always been cognizant and making efforts, but the idea of the plan is a much more holistic approach, more evidence-based, more collaborative with our partners, and taking the focus to injuries and fatalities,” he said. “That’s what Vision Zero is all about. Fatalities and injuries on our roads. It changes your focus a little bit more than just looking at things overall.”

The city says the plan will be aligned around four focus areas that will make the “greatest impact toward achieving its vision of a city with zero traffic-related” deaths and serious injuries.

“Using a holistic, data-driven and evidence-led approach” the city says it aims to “target high-risk hotspot intersections (locations of harm) where approximately 80 per cent of collisions occur, and prioritize our most vulnerable road users including pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists (victims of harm) and who account for 50 per cent of Surrey’s fatal collisions.”

The plan is expected to go before Surrey City Council in the fall, with the plan to take effect in December, he noted.

But the city is always working in its Traffic Management Centre to not only reduce congestion, but to help when crashes occur, and even help prevent them from happening, said Boan.

The city’s network of hundreds of cameras are monitored Monday to Friday, from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

“We’re getting up to about 450 cameras,” said Boan, which is in addition to the 29 red-light cameras in Surrey operated by the province.

How do traffic centre staff help out on Surrey roads via these cameras?

“We get advised when a collision occurs,” he said.

“Two things happen. Our guys immediately look at that intersection to see if they need to do anything to help traffic flow and minimize disruption, but also for safety, to avoid follow-up collisions. Number two, our safety people will then download that collision and have a look at it to see if there’s any important information we can get out of that, where they can see there’s something we could do to improve that intersection. We continually bring that information together, as well as the statistics, which can help inform that.

“The other thing,” Boan continued, “is we’ve worked with UBC on what’s called conflict analysis. That’s where they take our video footage, they look at conflicts” and how to resolve them.

The “conflicts” would generally be close calls, such as two vehicles coming to close to each other, or a vehicle nearly hitting a pedestrian.

See also: Car accidents on the rise in Surrey

See also: Drivers could pay $8 per day to help cut gridlock under new plan

“We also have been installing sensors along the road, bluetooth sensors, which are starting to give us a lot of information in terms of how fast people are going, specific things like vehicles going from one place to another,” said Boan. “It can give us more information about that traffic which can also help us, if RCMP are looking to deploy enforcement, it’s clear where we have issues.”

In recent years, the intersection of 72nd Avenue and 120th Street has become the worst place for accidents in Surrey, with the highest count, replacing 88th Avenue and King George Boulevard, which is now ranked second (based on ICBC data from 2013 to 2017).

“That could partly be because we did some work at 88th and King George,” said Boan. “We did protected left turns in all directions, and other treatments there. So that could be why 72nd is actually higher now.”

The third worst intersection for crashes is King George Boulevard and 128th Street, followed by 72nd Avenue and King George Boulevard in fourth, and rounding out the top five worst intersections in Surrey is 64th Avenue and Fraser Highway.

With files from Tom Fletcher

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