Calls for improved road safety following deadly crash on UBC campus

As students and staff at the University of British Columbia mourn the untimely deaths of two 18-year-old students, some are calling for safety improvements to roads in and around the Vancouver campus.

Around 1:45 am on Sunday, a vehicle veered off of Northwest Marine Drive near the UBC Botanical Garden and onto the sidewalk, striking and killing a male and a female. The students were pronounced dead at the scene.

Officials continue to investigate what might have caused the crash, however, on campus, there’s already speculation.

“I don’t have a solution, but I do know what’s wrong,” said Finn Mckay, a first-year student living in the dorms next to the crash site. He’s convinced excessive speeding was a contributing factor to the tragic crash.

“We do hear people drag racing on (this road) relatively consistently, every few nights,” explained Mckay.

“On this road especially, there should be speed bumps or more lighting.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Dr. Benjamin Cheung, a psychology professor at the school. In 2011 Cheung witnessed a deadly motorcycle crash down the road from this most recent collision. A 27-year-old motorcyclist died after colliding with a minivan. At the time, witnesses said the motorcycle was speeding just before the crash.

“I still get very emotional even talking and thinking about it,” Cheung said. He believes the RCMP’s UBC detachment does a good job deterring most speeders with road blocks and other enforcement measures, but says it’s impossible to stop everyone from obeying the posted speed limits.

“I don’t know exactly what caused this accident to happen, but speed has genuinely been a concern at that particular bend,” Cheung said.

In a video posted online, UBC President and Vice-Chancellor Santa J. Ono says the school is working with police and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to “review the circumstances of this tragedy and to determine appropriate measures to reduce the risk of further incidents.”

Cole Evans, President of the UBC Alma Mater Society, a non-profit group offering student-to-student services, chose not to speculate on what caused the crash. Instead, the AMS is focused on offering support services for grieving students.

“If there is a discovery (that) there might need to be some safety improvements made, our job is to advocate for students and you can be assured we’ll be at the forefront of that advocacy,” said Evans.

Meanwhile, a roadside memorial continues to grow, with students dropping off cards and flowers as they try to make sense of a tragic loss.

“I’ve been very tired. I’ve had trouble sleeping. It’s been very sombre, especially if you’re living in one of the buildings here.”

Following the crash, the driver was arrested and released, after being treated for minor injuries. The 21-year-old Vancouver resident is scheduled to appear in court at a later date.