Letter: To Doug Routley, MLA, regarding Barrett and North Road

Wednesday, June 12 2019

Dear Doug:

I would like to request your assistance  with a road safety issue on Gabriola.

The intersection between Barrett Road and North Road has a history of serious crashes.  The crashes are far more frequent at that location than at any other intersection on the island. You can confirm this with the RCMP and with first responders.

The crashes are caused by vehicles failing to stop at the stop sign when proceeding along Barrett Road toward North Road. Instead of stopping, vehicles drive through the intersection without slowing down. As well as far too many crashes, there have been even more close calls.

Careless driving is a factor.  However, if that was the only cause the crash rate at all intersections on the island would be roughly the same.  This particular intersection is off the scale.

Clearly there is a problem with the configuration of the intersection. There is something about the approach to North Road that does not provide some of the visual cues that are a part of perception when driving. Existing road markings are not adequate to catch the attention of drivers who are less than alert.

There is little point in simply saying “People should obey stop signs”.  The fact is, people often fail to notice those signs at this intersection. Other people  are being hurt. 

On the approach to North Road, Barrett Road rises slightly, then drops very near North Road.  As a result the surface of North Road is not visible until close to the intersection. On the other side of North Road, Barrett Road appears to continue, although it is called Bertha Road.  An inattentive driver could be deceived into thinking that Barrett Road continues without interruption. I think this is the cause of most incidents.

Proper design needs to take into account human weakness as well as the ideals of obeying traffic markings. The traffic markings at this intersection must be upgraded to catch the attention of drivers who are sometimes not totally focused on the road, rather than assuming that we are all perfect.

I suggest that one solution would be to install a line of traffic delineator posts similar to those now used to indicate the center line on parts of the Malahat. These would be placed on the center line of the approach to North Road.  At the start of the line there could be a large warning sign indicating a stop ahead. I think this would be fairly inexpensive, and would give careless drivers a warning that there is something unusual ahead.

Perhaps the intersection could be inspected by a traffic engineer who has training regarding the effects of perception and visual clues on driving behaviour.

Thank you for you attention.

 ~ John Poirier