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Sign campaign talks to Highway 97 speeders

Ron Bedard and his daughter Ella, 2, pose with a sign that shows a picture of them and urges drivers passing through the Westside Road overpass construction area to slow down. - Alistair Waters/capital news
Ron Bedard and his daughter Ella, 2, pose with a sign that shows a picture of them and urges drivers passing through the Westside Road overpass construction area to slow down.
— image credit: Alistair Waters/capital news

WorkSafe B.C. wants drivers passing through the Westside Road overpass project on Highway 97 to slow down.

And if the digital speed-reader boards it recently installed and the increased police presence at the site will not do the trick, they hope large new billboards showing pictures of actual construction workers and their young children will help keep leaded-footed motorists from pressing the pedal to the metal.

“These signs will make a difference,” said Donna Wilson, head of investigations for WorkSafe B.C.

Wilson, along with Westbank First Nation Chief Robert Louie, representatives of the B.C. Ministry of Transportation, and Ledcor, the company building the overpass, as well as local workers whose pictures appear on the 2.5-metre by 2.5-metre signs, called the mixture of speeding vehicles and construction workers a “dangerous cocktail.”

But all agreed it does not have to be that way if drivers just slow down.

“We’re not here to make the commute longer,” said Ron Bedard, Ledcor’s traffic and safety manger at the site.

Bedard, who appears on one sign with his two-year-old daughter Ella, said his greatest joy is heading home to his family after work.

“And nobody should have the right taken away from them to return safely to their loved ones,” he added.

On Monday, he and Ella helped unveil the sign that their picture is on.

Another site worker, Kyle Foote appears on a sign with three of his young children, including his four-year-old Kylee, who was also on hand at the ceremony with her dad.

Foote said he had personally experienced a close call with a speeding vehicle when he worked on a Highway 97 project near where the Walmart store in Westbank was built a few years ago.

He said despite the fact he was working inside an area divided off from the highway by large orange and white delineators, a car swerved into the cordoned off area and narrowly missed him.

Recently, a flagger at the Westside Road overpass site had the traffic control paddle she was holding knocked out of her hand by a speeding vehicle. In 2006, a flagger, a mother of four, was killed directing traffic at a construction site on Highway 97 near Mills Road in Kelowna. Two flagger have been killed and 16 injured on B.C. roads since 2008.

The speed limit through the Westside Road overpass construction zone is 60 kilometres. But the RCMP say drivers regularly speed through at more than of 80 kilometres per hour.

Fines for speeding in a construction zone are $196 for up to 20 kilometres per hour over the posted limit, $253 for speeds between 21 and 40 kilometres per hour over the posted limit and $368 for speeds of 41 to 60 kilometres per hour over the posted limit.

The RCMP have stepped up enforcement in the area after being asked to do so by the WFN, which is overseeing the construction project.

Currently there are about 40 workers at the overpass site. The signs, using pictures of actual workers and their children and saying, “Slow Down…My daddy works here,” have been used across the province for the last three years. They were used during construction of the William R. Bennett Bridge over Okanagan Lake and are believed to have helped slow traffic there.

The program won WorkSafe B.C. a top international award from the International Association of Business Communicators.

 

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