North

Flying rocks shatter at least 2 vehicle windows on same section of Alaska Highway

Two Yukoners have reported car windows being shattered by flying rocks on the same gravel section of the Alaska Highway in the past week.

Passenger in one of the vehicles says speed limit not lowered on gravel section northwest of Whitehorse

Karrie Brown was driving to Whitehorse from Haines Junction when a flying rock shattered a rear passenger window on her car. (Karrie Brown)

Two Yukoners have reported car windows being shattered by flying rocks on the same gravel section of the Alaska Highway in the past week.

Haines Junction resident Karrie Brown said she was driving to Whitehorse last Thursday when a pickup towing a trailer and driving fast approached from the opposite direction.

She rolled up her own window to prevent any gravel flying into the car, but was shocked by what followed.

"It sounded like a huge pop or something and I was like, 'what is that?'" said Brown.

"I could hear my window falling apart in the back and turning around and seeing it completely shattered and glass all over my back seat, I was like, 'whoa.'"

Her first thought to turn around and chase the other driver, but then asked herself what good would it do.

A rock shattered the rear passenger window in Karrie Brown's vehicle. (Karrie Brown)

Brown said she was glad her young son wasn't with her at the time. And she worries about how terrifying that would be for infants in a child seat and their parents.

On Sunday, Whitehorse resident Jane Jacobs said she was a passenger in the back seat of a vehicle travelling on the same section of gravel on the Alaska Highway.

She said fortunately she was on the passenger side of the seat when a flying rock from a fast moving SUV shattered the rear window on the driver's side.

"I just started screaming," said Jacobs.

"I thought somebody threw a big stone, a big rock at the window and my husband couldn't hear it. He thought there was another crack on the front window, but the lady beside him on the passenger side, she said, 'no no it's the back window, the back window's gone,'" Jacobs said.

Brown worries about the harm the shattered glass could inflict on a baby or toddler in a child seat. (Karrie Brown)

Jacobs said there were no signs on the gravel section requiring drivers to slow down.

Liz Hanson, opposition MLA and critic for the Department of Highways and Public Works, said she had already contacted the minister, Richard Mostyn, earlier this summer about a lack of signage at road construction sites.

She said any incident involving shattered windows carries the risk of serious injuries.

"First of all you're moving at speed and secondly you've got glass that is coming at you and embeds everywhere," said Hanson.

"So the driver can be distracted, the driver could be injured," she said, adding people need to know to go slow on gravel sections.

Government says it's excessive speed

Paul Murchison, the director of transportation engineering in the Highways and Public Works Department, said there are signs posted telling people to reduce speed in the gravel sections.

Several people who have driven the highway have told CBC they did not notice any signs reducing the speed limit.

Murchison said excessive speed is usually the cause of flying rocks. But he said it's rare for it to shatter vehicle windows.

The difference this year, he said, is that the road construction schedule for this summer had to be revised after the pandemic began. Murchison said that's meant the lag time between when the hard road surface is replaced with gravel and when the gravel is covered again is longer than usual, so there is more opportunity for incidents to happen.

The resurfacing on the Alaska Highway between Whitehorse and Haines Junction should be completed in mid-September, he said.

In the meantime, Murchison says drivers should follow instructions on road signs and drive safely.

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