Editor’s note: This story was updated with the names of the woman who was killed in the crash and her daughter’s name, after Meaghan Briault gave us permission to do so following the notification of all of the victim’s family.
Nov. 20 is National Day of Remembrance for Road Crash Victims and the daughter of a driver who lost her life to a crash on Highway 18 on Tuesday, Nov. 19 is urging people to sign a petition advocating for increased safety on the well-travelled, road.
“I was taught in elementary school that petitions were a way for citizens to tell politicians what they want,” said Meaghan Briault, daughter of Maureen Cowles-Curtis, who was killed in Tuesday’s crash. “Safety studies and improvements to Highway 18, particularly the area known as Hill 60 are vitally important to our community,” she added.
The crash occurred about 8 p.m. Tuesday night. Two vehicles were involved, each travelling in opposite directions when one vehicle attempted to avoid a collision with an elk. The vehicle struck the elk and then the oncoming vehicle.
Cowles-Curtis from Lake Cowichan was declared dead at the scene, and one man and one woman were airlifted to hospital in life-threatening condition.
“This is a very tragic situation,” said North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP Sgt. Trevor Busch. “Collisions with animals are not uncommon, I would like to remind motorists to drive defensively, slow down and leave plenty of distance from the next vehicle to allow the best chance to see wildlife.”
The online petition at change.org calls for wildlife fencing along the highway to prevent the ongoing encounters with large wildlife, namely elk.
“Save human and animal lives,” wrote Bonnie Jones, the petition’s organizer. Jones isn’t a member of the family who suffered a loss on Tuesday night but she grieves with them.
“Encounters with large wildlife are a daily occurrence on this treacherous stretch of highway,” Jones said. “This has gone on for too long. How many more fatalities does there need to be? We ask you to fix this immediately before more loved ones are lost.”
Following the fatal accident, investigators closed the road well into the night and Wednesday’s early morning hours. Within hours of it being re-opened to traffic, another collision with an elk occurred at nearly the same spot. Unlike the night before, the driver of the car was able to walk away with minor injuries.
“This incident is a reminder that collisions with wildlife can happen at any time,” said Cpl. Dave Motley from the Lake Cowichan RCMP detachment. “I would urge motorists to drive according to conditions and be extra vigilant in foggy or dark conditions at dawn or dusk when wildlife is most active.”
The death of her mom on Tuesday night and the subsequent crash Wednesday morning have furthered a heartbroken Briault’s resolve to see change along the highway.
“My mother was a good woman with a very safe driving history. She didn’t drink and she never used her cell phone while driving. The accident that took her life was just that — an accident,” Briault said. “And we have the ability to minimize any accidents like hers. And if we have the ability, don’t we have the responsibility?”
Briault said her mom, who was in her early 60s, had a deep love for nature and for animals and, “I know that she would support wildlife overpasses”.
She’s calling on decision makers to get to work and hopes the public will join her.
“I hope that whoever makes these decisions, if it’s Sonia Furstenau [Cowichan Valley MLA], or the provincial government or ICBC, that they realize the value and importance of taking measures to keep something like this from happening again,” said Briault. “I urge everyone to sign the petition and reach out to municipal and provincial governments leaders.”
To sign the online petition visit change.org and search for “Hwy 18 needs wildlife fencing ASAP”.