West Kelowna  

Peachland resident worries about Highway 97 'death corner'

Hwy 97 'death corner'

The stretch of Highway 97 near Hardy Street and Antler's Bay in Peachland has been given a new name by locals.

Resident John Wardley says it is becoming known as Death Corner, following the death of a motorcyclist in late September and in anticipation of more to come. 

"The reason for that is not just because of that fatality, we feel that there’s going to be more," says Wardley.

He lives at Antler Beach Estates, one of two complexes within the 200 metre stretch of Highway 97, which also features a Chinese restaurant, Hardy Falls regional park, and Antler Beach. 

Some of the residents who live at the estate are in their 80's and 90's, and without the fastest reflexes, says Wardley.

"It’s almost a daily occurrence to hear the squeal of brakes on that highway. I’ve crossed that highway and when I’ve crossed, I’ve got some big water floatation device and I make sure that people see me. I’ve actually had people speed up ... we call it death corner now.

"When you come out of there, make a left, you imagine you’re 90 years old. Somebody’s going to be seriously hurt or there’s going to be another fatality and I really think that."

He recommends setting up a roadside indicator to identify and flash speed levels as motorists drive by, positioning speed cameras in the area or adding more police speed traps during summer months. 

Wardley understands the highway is not a local jurisdiction, but hopes local council members may be able to help draw attention to the issue. 

"Just having the 70 there doesn’t do it, and I’d hate to see one of my neighbours or myself get injured to make something happen. It should be happening now.

“I’ve actually timed it from when I could spot a vehicle coming out to when I could hit them, and its one and a half seconds. That’s doing 70 km/h. If I’m doing 120 km/h, you can probably cut that down to maybe half a second, and that’s your response time, your thinking time - now you’ve got to brake. You’re not going to make it.” 

ICBC data shows there has been 14 crashes at the intersection of Highway 97 and Hardy Street between 2015 and 2019.

Peachland mayor Cindy Fortin, who was once a colleague of the motorcyclist who died there last month, says it’s rare that vehicles actually travel the 70 km/h speed limit.

"A life just got taken so quickly so we've really got to keep pushing the Ministry to take a look at this and maybe move it up in their budget cycle.

"I just don't know how many people have to be injured or killed before we get some real serious, quick highway improvements through here. We need it done."

Fortin says she’d like to see dividers put in place, or the speed limit brought down from Drought Hill all the way through. 

"It is confusing for people. They come down Drought Hill at 90, then they're supposed to slow down to 70, then it picks up to 90 again and then 70. We think it should just be one speed.

"Even some dividers for head-on collisions would be nice to have. They're putting them in from Summerland to Penticton but we'd like to see them all the way up here right through Drought Hill, because safety first. This is really dangerous and I know because I face it every day."

However, she has been told by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure that the speed limit cannot be slowed down. 

"We have been trying. They keep saying we can't slow it down, because we've done studies and the way it is now, people would probably speed up and take more risks if you slowed it down all the way from Peachland."

Plans for a bypass connecting to Highway 97C have been shelved for a significant period of time, and improvements planned for the Hardy Street turnoff are slated to take place six to 15 years from now. 

She hopes it won't take another major accident or fatality to prioritize the necessary improvements. 

"You shouldn't have to take your life into your hands to make a left on the highway, and you see it all the time. I live close by so I hear the brakes squealing all the time, and it really is a safety concern."

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