For someone who has driven the George Massey Tunnel for over 25 years, I sure have noticed a lot more accidents in and around the tunnel recently. In many places you can hardly see the pavement from all the skid marks. Chunks of truck tires litter the side of the road and damaged light fixtures dangle from the walls. The smell of burnt rubber and the squeal of tires seem to have become a regular occurrence.
So what is going on? Well, I am sure this is no surprise to anyone, but extra traffic due to growth and expansion is having a major impact on traffic volumes, especially during rush hour.
Unfortunately there is no immediate relief in sight until the new South Fraser Perimeter Road gets completed. Putting our faith in engineered solutions, political will or reflective tiles is futile and I would suggest we need to focus much more on the basics.
Although the posted speed limit in and around the tunnel is 80 km/ h, it is way too common to have drivers go 110 km/h or faster, especially while going through the tunnel, probably figuring there is no way they can get a ticket. It makes absolutely no sense to be speeding under poor road conditions, poor lighting and high traffic volume.
The number of drivers who forget to use both their head and tail lights is proof of how little attention many pay while driving through the tunnel. I would estimate that on any given day maybe 50 to 70 per cent of drivers actually remember to turn on their lights.
In my 25 years, I have been lucky to only once have the tunnel lights go out completely. Let me tell you it gets so pitch dark when the tunnel lights go out that even with your headlights on you can barely see the car in front of you.
So wake up and pay attention as you approach, drive through and exit the tunnel. Not that we need more signage, but maybe the Ministry of Transportation could put up giant yellow sign with "WAKE-UP" on it at the tunnel approaches. That would probably get drivers at least wondering what the sign is for and make them think about their driving.
Given all the heavy vehicle traffic on Highway 99, the tunnel is constantly in need of repair and many sections of this road are suboptimal at any given time. Some patches are re-paved constantly to keep up with the fast deterioration.
The leading cause of rear-end collision is following the vehicle in front of you too closely and not being able to stop in time. I don't know how many times I have had vehicles within 10 feet of the back of my vehicle while travelling through the tunnel.
As a rule of thumb, ask yourself as you are driving through the tunnel: "If the vehicle in front of me were to suddenly come to a stop, would I be able to stop?" Given the poor road conditions, poor lighting, high traffic, etc., the standard recommended distances between vehicles do not apply here and greater distances must be maintained to prevent collisions. The number of sudden traffic stops has increased dramatically due to the extra volume.
The one thing we know for sure is that driving conditions in and around the George Massey Tunnel are only going to get worse in the next two years until the South Fraser Perimeter Road is completed. How many people will get hurt or killed in the next two years depends on when we wake up, slow down and keep our distance.