Highway safety sign system fails during snowy Sunday on Coquihalla Highway | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Highway safety sign system fails during snowy Sunday on Coquihalla Highway

Coquihalla motorist Leo Isaac said drivers had slowed down to 70 km/h in spite of variable highway speed signs that indicated 90 km/h was a safe speed to drive during stormy conditions on the Coquihalla last Sunday, March 28, 2021.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Leo Isaac
March 30, 2021 - 6:00 PM

Safety equipment designed to remind motorists driving the Coquihalla Highway to operate at a safe speed according to conditions didn’t do its job this past weekend.

The highway’s variable speed signage on the Coquihalla Highway was posted at 90 km/h for most of Sunday, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure reported today, in spite of poor driving conditions due to bad weather.

Fortunately, most motorists ignored the signs advising speeds of 90 km/h because the road was slippery and snow covered.

Coquihalla motorist Leo Isaac issued a social media post on Sunday around noon, while driving near the summit.

"Icy underneath! Variable speed is 90 but everyone is doing 70 right now," he wrote.

He noted other vehicles were experiencing "some minor issues" while heading westbound from the summit toward Hope.

Variable speed signs were introduced at three pilot locations in 2016, including the Coquihalla Highway from the Portia interchange to the former toll plaza, a 40 kilometre stretch.

The ministry confirmed the variable speed limit on the Coquihalla Highway was posted at 90 km/h for most of Sunday, in an email today, March 30.

“The ministry confirmed that due to an operator switching error, the system was not adjusting speed limits based on traffic and weather data, resulting in a fixed speed limit display of 90 km/h. We apologize this was not identified, and adjusted during the snowfall event,” the email reads.

A process and practices review is planned to prevent a similar occurrence in the future.

The variable speed limit system collects data from road surface and traffic sensors, calculating a safe highway speed for the conditions. The speed is then updated on digital signage.

The goal of variable speed signage is to improve driver safety by making motorists more aware of the need to slow down during unfavourable weather conditions, traffic congestion or during construction.

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