Yoho National Park experienced a tragic start to the summer as the site of two fatal motor vehicle accidents in three weeks. Both collisions occurred on a 40-kilometre, undivided stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway running between Sherbrooke Creek and the national park’s western border.

Both deaths caused by head-on collisions with commercial trucks

The first accident on June 15 involved a head-on collision between an SUV and a logging truck, killing one person and requiring the truck driver to be evacuated by air ambulance to a Calgary hospital. The truck, which the RCMP states was struck when the SUV crossed the centre line, rolled down a hill and caught fire. 

On July 2, a 31-year-old man died after he drifted into oncoming traffic, colliding with a semi-trailer. The accident site was shut down for investigation by British Columbia’s Integrated Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Service and BC Coroners Service, delaying hundreds of motorists for nearly five hours.

Stretch known for higher-than-average collision rate

Although six kilometres of the Trans-Canada Highway were twinned within Yoho National Park in 2018, the last phase of the project has remained uncompleted. The project aims to protect both human and wildlife safety by dividing the highway to reduce head-on collisions, installing wildlife exclusion fencing, and designating wildlife crossing zones.

A Parks Canada spokesperson advised the Rocky Mountain Outlook that there is no funding for completing the highway twinning project at this time. An impact assessment conducted by Parks Canada for the Yoho stretch of the Trans-Canada states that it has a 22% higher collision rate than the B.C. highway average. Retired Parks Canada head Terry McGuire – who also acted as the project’s director and unit supervisor from 2016 to 2020 – estimated that increased material costs and worker shortages caused by COVID-19 could increase the remaining phase’s cost to $750 million.

Yoho accidents denounced as “preventable tragedies”

A similar twinning project was previously undertaken on the stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway running through Banff. The project began in the early 1980s and took nearly three decades to complete. As a result, the Trans-Canada section within Banff experienced a six-fold reduction of fatal accidents (due to the reduction of head-on collisions) and between an 80 to 95% drop in wildlife-vehicle collisions.

Terry McGuire stated that these fatal accidents could be expected to keep occurring and denounced the delay of the project’s completion:

“Unfortunately, the further away from Ottawa and in areas of lesser population, i.e. votes, the less pressing the issue becomes warranting a shrug and an acceptance of what is totally preventable tragedies.”

Highway collisions cause serious and catastrophic physical and emotional injuries

Highway collisions can result in serious personal injury or death, given the high-speed limits and presence of semi-trucks and other industrial or farming equipment. Injured drivers or passengers can experience a variety of mental, emotional, and physical damage, including:

These injuries substantially impact the lives and financial stability of the injured person and their loved ones. 

An injury’s severity may not be immediately apparent in the aftermath of a motor vehicle accident. Symptoms may develop or worsen over time. Therefore, it is critical for injured individuals to contact a qualified personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after an accident to preserve their legal options and right to bring a lawsuit.

The deadly cost of commercial trucking accidents

Authorities have not reported any evidence of trucker negligence or error in the recent accidents in Yoho National Park. However, when commercial trucking accidents do occur, they often result in fatalities or catastrophic injuries, given a truck’s sheer size.

As part of a heavily regulated industry, commercial trucking companies can bear significant liability for accidents caused by their drivers. Common causes of commercial trucking accidents include:

  • Driver fatigue;
  • Distracted driving;
  • Driver intoxication;
  • Dangerous driving, such as following a car too closely, passing unsafely, making wide turns, drifting between lanes, or speeding;
  • Poorly-secured or overweight cargo;
  • Poor maintenance of the truck or trailers;
  • Tire blowouts;
  • Incorrectly parking in dangerous or high-traffic locations, such as on a highway shoulder; and
  • Failing to maintain lighting standards or reflective markings.

Commercial trucking accidents involve voluminous evidence and consideration of complicated technical and legal issues. Consulting with a personal injury lawyer experienced in commercial trucking regulations helps injured drivers, passengers, or pedestrians understand their rights and take swift legal action.

Grieving loved ones may be eligible to bring wrongful death claims

In addition to legal actions related to injuries caused by commercial trucking or motor vehicle accidents, these incidents can also give rise to wrongful death claims. In Alberta, the surviving family members of a person whose death was caused by another person’s negligence can make a claim for compensation under the Fatal Accidents Act.

The Fatal Accidents Act provides that a deceased’s spouse, adult interdependent (common-law) partner, parent, step-parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, or step-child is eligible to bring a wrongful death claim. All family members’ claims must be advanced together in one lawsuit and may seek compensation for a variety of damages, including:

  • Bereavement;
  • Loss of financial support;
  • Loss of household support;
  • Funeral expenses; and
  • Expenses, including those related to travel and accommodation, are incurred in caring for the deceased person between the time of injury and their death.

Family members who have lost a loved one in a motor vehicle accident should contact a personal injury lawyer to determine whether they have a potential claim under the Fatal Accidents Act

Cuming & Gillespie LLP Advocates for Injured Individuals and Their Families After a Motor Vehicle Accident

Cuming & Gillespie LLP is passionate about helping injured individuals move forward after a motor vehicle accident. Our experienced personal injury lawyers work closely with medical professionals and other experts to ensure all aspects of your claim are handled and nothing slips through the cracks. Over the past decade, we have helped clients recover over $175 million in damages. We are dedicated to securing the maximum compensation possible in each case so our clients can close a painful chapter in their lives and focus on their continued recovery. 

Conveniently located in the heart of downtown Calgary, Cuming & Gillespie LLP proudly serves clients in Calgary, Edmonton, and throughout the great province of Alberta. To schedule a confidential consultation with a skilled and compassionate personal injury lawyer, call us at 403-571-0555 (toll-free at 1-800-682-2480) or reach out online.