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B.C.’s Highway 97A gets new safety signage after fatal crash

Click to play video: 'Highway 97A gets new safety signage after fatal crash' Highway 97A gets new safety signage after fatal crash
WATCH: Drivers will soon have better warning of a challenging curve on a North Okanagan highway. The safety upgrades come after the brother of a woman killed in a motorcycle crash pushed for changes – Jul 13, 2022

Drivers will soon have better warning of a challenging curve on a North Okanagan highway.

The safety upgrades come after the brother of a woman killed in a motorcycle crash pushed for changes.

Stephen Seelinger has been advocating for improvements to the intersection of Highway 97A and Springbend Road since his sister Janet was killed in a motorcycle crash there in June 2021.

Janet Seelinger, 58, died when her bike crossed into oncoming traffic and crashed into a large commercial farm vehicle heading in the opposite direction, police said.

Read more: Woman, 58, dead after highway collision involving motorcycle, farm tractor

Seelinger said his sister would be “very pleased” by the new signage.

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“The whole idea was to move forward so this does not ever happen to another person and family again,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Calls for safety improvements to Highway 97A intersection after fatal crash' Calls for safety improvements to Highway 97A intersection after fatal crash
Calls for safety improvements to Highway 97A intersection after fatal crash – Sep 27, 2021

The provincial transportation ministry plans to make the existing chevron curve signs bigger and add a new overhead curve warning sign on the highway with flashing lights.

Stephen Seelinger learned of the upgrades on June 22, exactly a year after his sister’s fatal crash.

“For them to tell me on that day that this money had been funded … I was ecstatic,” Seelinger said, adding that he is grateful to everyone involved in making the improvements happen.

Read more: Calls for safety improvements to Highway 97A intersection after fatal crash

ICBC statistics show in the five years between 2017 and 2021 there were seven crashes at the intersection including two involving at least one fatality or injury.

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In February 2021, surveillance footage also recorded a semi-truck loaded with lumber tipping over as it tried to get around the curve.

Click to play video: 'Highway 97A crash caught on video' Highway 97A crash caught on video
Highway 97A crash caught on video – Feb 2, 2021

Nicholas Higginbottom, a long-term employee at the nearby gas station, agrees the area needs safety improvements.

“It is just a matter of time before some semi runs into a van of tons of kids,” Higginbottom said.

However, Higginbottom believes the new signage will help.

“I think it will help greatly. A lot of people at night time when it is dark just don’t pay attention or are tired and at the last second they see (the curve), slam on the brakes, spin out and go into the ditch,” Higginbottom said.

Read more: Vernon widower pleased to see median barriers installed on Highway 97A

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Seelinger described the signage as a great start.

“This intersection is designed very poorly. Even as we stand here talking there are people going through a 40 km/hr corner at high rates of speed … it is a very unorthodox type of corner. It needs restructure in the future,” Seelinger said.

The province says the updated signage is being installed following an engineering review of the curve in late 2021.

The electrical design for the project is being finalized this summer and the signage is expected to be installed in the fall.

“Once the planned improvements are complete, the ministry will monitor and ensure they are providing the intended safety benefits prior to determining if any further actions are warranted,” the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said in a statement.

– with files from Doyle Potenteau

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