Dangers of the Coquihalla Highway

The Coquihalla Highway, a famous highway in British Columbia, Canada, runs through rough terrain, bringing both beauty and problems. In this article, youll discover the origins, significance, and potential risks of the Coquihalla Highway. 

We will also take a look at the problems that altitude presents, especially during the winter. Continue reading till the end to read about the necessary precautions to take for a smooth and safe journey.

Coquihallas Origins and Significance

Built in 1986, the Coquihalla Highway, commonly known as Highway 5, is historically significant as an important expansion of infrastructure timed for Expo 86. 

It stretches 193 kilometers from Kamloops to Hope via Merritt and has an important function in connecting major communities and supporting trade, tourism, and daily commuting. 

The roadway, named after the Coquihalla River, is a lifeline between communities and promotes economic activity. 

Is Coquihalla Highway Dangerous?

The Coquihalla Highway presents danger at a certain altitude and in winter times. Heres how:

Altitude Challenges

The Coquihalla Highway ascends the Coquihalla Pass, reaching altitudes of 1,249 meters (4,097 feet) above sea level. Climbing to Surrey Lake Summit at 1,444 meters (4,738 feet) poses altitude issues, especially in the winter. The higher altitude can cause unexpected weather changes, such as excessive rainfall, which turns rain into snow.

Drivers passing through the pass face thinner air, which may negatively affect both vehicle performance and driver well-being. Thus, it must be noted that all parts of the vehicle used for the journey are functioning well, especially the brakes. This is why in winter semi-trucks require tire chains to supplement braking and reduce slippage.

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Winter Challenges

Winter on the Coquihalla presents a particular breed of problems, turning this scenic route into a possible hazard. Sudden snowstorms, blowing snow, and deep fog make driving dangerous. 

The highway’s steep parts increase the possibility of hitting black ice, forcing drivers to exercise extreme caution. Traveling in the winter demands not only knowledge of road conditions but also the ability to adapt to the region’s unpredictable weather patterns.

How to Prepare for the Coquihalla Journey?

Those who plan to travel through the Coquihalla Highway, especially first-timers, should ensure certain safety measures are taken care of before hitting the road. Here are 6 ways to prepare travelers to avoid the dangers of the Coquihalla Highway:

Check Road Conditions

Before going on your Coquihalla journey, make sure to thoroughly verify the road conditions. Many weather websites offer real-time information. If the conditions appear to be too serious, consider postponing your journey. 

Being informed allows you to foresee and successfully navigate future problems. Keep track of weather forecasts, especially during the winter, when unexpected storms can have a significant impact on road conditions.

Adjust Your Speed

While the legal speed limit may be 120 km/h, it is extremely important to adjust your speed according to road conditions. 

Driving below the maximum speed limit in rainy or snowy conditions is not only advisable but also wise. Slowing down improves safety and reduces the chance of accidents by giving drivers more time to respond to unwelcome road hazards.

Use Highway Cameras

Use highway cameras to monitor route conditions. British Columbia has a large network of highway cameras that provide clear views of the road ahead. This useful tool allows you to check the presence of snow on the road and other potential risks. 

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Drivers can make better-informed decisions about their journey when highway cameras are strategically placed.

Pick the Right Tires

Having the correct tires is a necessity for a Coquihalla winter trip. Winter tires in British Columbia must have a tread depth of at least 3.5 millimeters. 

Look for tires labeled M+S (Mud and Snow rated) or those with a 3-peaked mountain and snowflake symbol, which promise greater grip in snowy and icy weather. Carrying chains in harsh situations gives additional traction and serves as a safety net in unexpected events.

Stay Alert

Coquihalla’s unpredictable weather, frequent wind, and unexpected changes in conditions need drivers to remain sharp and attentive. Even seemingly calm weather can change quickly, and water gathering on the roads can lead to unexpected black ice. 

Avoid distractions such as texting, and make sure you’re rested before going on the journey. Staying sharp involves not only physical consciousness but also mental preparedness for the unique challenges that Coquihalla may bring.

Prioritize Safety Over Travel

In difficult situations, safety should always take precedence over getting to the destination quickly. If the situation worsens or you become tired, consider postponing your trip. The Coquihalla requires alertness, and being on guard ensures a safe journey for you and your fellow travelers. 

Remember that arriving safely is just as important as getting to the destination.

The Coquihalla Highway, although considered dangerous, stands as a testament to the challenges of Canadian roadways. However, travelers can confidently navigate the Coquihalla Highway by remaining informed, adapting to road conditions, staying alert, and putting safety first.

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