West Kelowna discusses left turn signals at Highway 97 intersections

West Kelowna council was shown crash statistics at various intersections along Highway 97 during Tuesday's council meeting.

Turning left through West Kelowna’s Highway 97 corridor can be risky business.

The District of West Kelowna learned exactly how risky that business can be during Tuesday’s council meeting.

Shawn Grant, acting regional manager with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, showed council the crash statistics at various intersections on the Westside.

From 2007 to 2011, 43 crashes occurred at the intersection of Butt Road and Highway 97—11 of which were left turn related.

In the same time period, 43 crashes occurred at the intersection of Westlake Road/Hudson Road and Highway 97—19 of those happened while a left turn was being made.

The Gellatly Road/Gosset Road and Highway 97 intersection had 35 crashes, 26 of which were left turn related.

The intersection of Bartley Road and Highway 97 had 26 crashes. Fifteen of those were left turn related.

At Daimler Road and Highway 97 there were 25 crashes—10 were left turn related.

Finally, Grant explained that Ross Road and Highway 97 had 22 crashes, 14 of which were left turn related.

Four of the left turn related crashes ended up being fatal.

“It’s unfortunate that we have to use crash and injury and death statistics to get these kinds of things going, or at least to put them into perspective,” said Coun. Bryden Winsby.

Winsby, along with other councillors, inquired about being “proactive” and putting left turn signals in at all necessary intersections.

But, according to Grant, if there are too many left turn signal lights, it may disrupt the flow of traffic along the highway.

“To put arrows at all intersections, all directions, it would be a long, excessive delay on Highway 97, which can also translate into safety issues too,” said Grant.

Mayor Doug Findlater said that West Kelowna may have to look into slowing down Highway 97 traffic by “looking at it as more of a Harvey Avenue south of the bridge as opposed to a highway.”

“It’s not (something) that I think will be universally popular with the public, but with regard to Highway 97 from the bridge to Westbank, we may need to have a change in philosophy. That may involve lowering the speed limit,” said Findlater.

Grant said that speed limits are always a hot topic; however, lowering the speed limits may not change driver behaviour because “people drive what they feel comfortable.”

“The best speed limit out there is one that doesn’t require excessive enforcement, it’s sort of self-regulating,” said Grant.

“If you look at the characteristic of road from Boucherie to Gellatly, it’s a really good road. . .where as you look at Harvey, you have a lot of driveways and a lot of side road friction, which really dictates a slower speed limit because of the road characteristic.”

Council decided to refer the item to staff to provide a report to council relating to priorities and financial implications.

This issue is likely to be brought back to council at its next meeting, on April, 10.