A few modest proposals for our highways

When speed signs warn you to slow down below posted limits, they
When speed signs warn you to slow down below posted limits, they're not just for show.
— image credit: Ministry of Transportation

At a dinner a couple of years ago, I was seated across the table from Transportation Minister Todd Stone, and as we chatted I asked him what the number one complaint was that he received. Without hesitation, he said that the fast-fading lines painted on roads and highways were the thing he heard most about.

It’s therefore probably a relief to him that after two years of testing various types of paint, the ministry has given the go-ahead to one that will (hopefully) hold up longer than the current paints do. It’s one of several improvements to B.C. highways recently; others are variable speed limit signs and rest stops that now offer free WiFi.

But why stop there? The province’s highways offer perils and pitfalls that many drivers—particularly tourists—are perhaps unprepared for. I lived (and drove) in Great Britain for five years, and the motorways there are positively placid compared with those of B.C. Herewith are a few more ideas to make the province’s highways safer and more attractive for everyone.

Whoa, lead-foot, ease up: Particularly treacherous and/or winding sections of highway are routinely marked with signs suggesting that the driver should drop his or her speed quite substantially below the posted speed limit; but a lot of people seem to believe these signs are for decorative purposes only. Keep the signs in place, but on the last one attach a warning reading “We mean it; slow the f*** down.”

Prepare to be disappointed: B.C. abounds in highway signs cautioning motorists to be alert for animals such as moose/elk/deer/badgers (I did not make that last one up) for the next xx kilometres. How many tourists, I wonder, have seen these signs and spent the next xx kilometres with their cameras ready (hopefully not while driving), expecting a conga line of moose/elk/deer/badgers to appear at the side of the road, then been disappointed to see no wildlife other than three crows picking at a Tim Horton’s bag? Again, keep the signs, but add a disclaimer: “We make no promises.”

Leave the phone alone: Back in the 1960s a wildfire caused by a cigarette butt occurred near the Hope Slide, and for some time afterward there was a sign at the side of the road near the site that showed a cigarette butt dangling from a noose, and wording that stated something to the effect of “Whoever did this should be hanged too.” Dramatic? Certainly; but it made the point. Given the accidents and deaths now caused by distracted driving, perhaps it’s time to come up with a similarly graphic series of billboards, showing a smartphone in a noose, or covered with blood.

Don’t worry, be happy: Many B.C. highways are prone to rock slides, and the government posts signs warning motorists not to stop in certain areas because of the danger of rock falls. All well and good; until you are stopped directly beside one of these signs in summer because of roadworks, and have to spend an anxious few minutes gazing upward through the car window. Maybe cover up those signs, when traffic is going to be stopped near them, for the heart health of motorists.

Should any Ministry of Transportation official read these suggestions, and like them, feel free to help yourself. You’re welcome.

PS: Hope the new paint works out. . . .

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