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Freezing rain causes havoc on South Okanagan-Similkameen highways

Road conditions on Highway 97 at Callan Road, about 6 km north of Summerland, on the morning of Friday, Nov. 29  - Courtesy of DriveBC.ca
Road conditions on Highway 97 at Callan Road, about 6 km north of Summerland, on the morning of Friday, Nov. 29
— image credit: Courtesy of DriveBC.ca

Freezing rain and winter conditions caused some havoc on the highways Friday morning.

Princeton RCMP detachment said Highway 3 was closed Friday morning from Hedley to Princeton because of an accident. Cpl. Ted Manchulenko of the Penticton RCMP said a pickup truck was headed northbound at 9:31 a.m. on Highway 97 just south of Okanagan Falls and lost control of his vehicle on the icy roadway.

"He ended up going off road to the right hand side and pretty much writes off his vehicle at that point. He was hospitalized but didn't have life-threatening injuries," said Manchulenko. "It is very important to be aware of your conditions and the condition of your vehicle, especially at this time of year because when we get these temperatures the roads start to ice up."

According to Environment Canada Penticton experienced freezing rain Friday morning with snow expected to be falling by Sunday. Road conditions from Highway 3A between Keremeos and Highway 97 junction also experienced freezing rain. Drivers heading out onto the Coquihalla should expect similar conditions including areas of compact snow and slushy with slippery sections.

As the likelihood of snow being on the roads increases, the number of people injured or killed in crashes in the Southern Interior triples. A report from ICBC said, on average, 28 people are injured or killed in the Southern Interior due to driving too fast for the conditions.

"We don't have a consistent pattern of snowfall, which is a catch-22," said Cpl. Ted Manchulenko of the Penticton RCMP. "It takes time for people to get accustomed to driving in the snow and slippery conditions and we don't really get the consistent snowfall here anymore and people forget it is winter."

It is why RCMP and ICBC are asking drivers to slow down and adjust their speed for the conditions whether that be rainy, icy or snowy weather.

"There are a number of factors at play, but I think leavening extra time to get to your destination is really key. If you start your day off already running 10 minutes late now you are hurrying on the roads," said Manchulenko. "If we had snowy conditions all the time it woful force people to slow down, scrape their windshields, take the time to take care of the vehicles, check their tires, windshield wipers and be prepared."

Because the snow and ice can hit unexpectedly, Manchulenko suggests making sure your tires are rated for the conditions early in the season. ICBC reminds to check your tire pressure regularly, as pressure drops in cold weather and overinflated tires can reduce gripping.

"Stopping distances increase in bad conditions. It doesn't matter if you are equipped with studs or winter tires. If you have been on an ice rink you know that it is slippery whether you are on skates or not," said Manchulenko, adding following distances should be at least four seconds during reduced visibility and poor road conditions.

Other tips ICBC suggests are to consider alternatives to help you get to work safely and check the road conditions for your entire route through websites such as drivebc.ca.

“In the Southern Interior, drivers often encounter snow, ice and darker conditions at this time of year,” said Chief Constable Jamie Graham, Chair of the Traffic Safety Committee of the British Columbia Association of Chiefs of Police. “Don’t be foolish and think that you don’t need to adjust your driving for the conditions. Slow down, increase your following distance and give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. Posted speed limits are for ideal driving conditions only.”

Seven out of 10 speed-related ceases in B.C. are caused by driving too fast for the road conditions such as rainy, icy or snowy weather.

 

***Correction***

This story has been updated to correct that Highway 3 was closed on Friday morning, not Highway 97.

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