The section of Highway 97 north of Summerland has been the site of previous accidents and road closures, including a collision resulting in a fatality on April 27.
But Cpl. Mike Halskov, spokesperson for the B.C. RCMP Traffic Services, believes the section of highway is not to blame for accidents along this section of the road.
While the cause of the two-vehicle collision is still under investigation, he said road design is rarely a factor in accidents.
“In the majority of cases, something the driver has done has led to the accident,” he said.
Factors including impairment, distracted driving or a motorist experiencing a medical emergency could all be factors in accidents, he said.
Representatives from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said they are investigating the recent accident north of Summerland.
“Our ministry looks at many factors such as road geometry and design, weather conditions, road surface condition, signage, site visibility, number of lanes, proximity to intersections, lighting, traffic speeds and volumes, pavement condition, etc.,” a ministry statement reads. “We also work with the other agencies to determine other contributing factors such as driver actions or vehicle conditions. This includes information received from ICBC claims, and RCMP and BC Coroners Service reports into serious collisions.”
On April 15, just two weeks before the most recent serious accident and road closure, a two-vehicle collision sent five people to hospital.
The collision, near Okanagan Lake Provincial Park, also resulted in a lengthy road closure.
Traffic along the highway between Summerland and the provincial park has also been slowed to single lane alternation on numerous occasions as a result of traffic accidents.
In addition, a rock slide north of Summerland at the end of January affected motorists for around a month. The road was closed in early February and while a bypass was put in place later that month, the highway itself did not reopen until March 5.
Between the Feb. 2 road closure and the opening of the bypass on Feb. 11, motorists had to take lengthy detours to travel between Summerland and Kelowna.
The rock slide and other road closures have resulted in some Okanagan residents asking for an alternate route between Kelowna and Penticton.
The Ministry of Transportation is not considering another route at this time.
“Any potential option would be extremely costly and challenging from a geotechnical perspective,” a ministry statement reads. “Ministry staff continue to monitor this area and all provincial roadways to ensure the safest conditions possible for all people travelling across B.C. This includes enhanced road maintenance through our maintenance contractors, as well as rock fall, mud slide and avalanche mitigation.”
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