01/09/2014 04:56 EST | Updated 03/11/2014 05:59 EDT

Deadly highway claims eight lives in 11 days

Another fatal crash on B.C.'s Highway 16  has claimed the lives of three members of an unidentified Alberta family, and hospitalized two others, raising the death toll on the treacherous B.C. route to eight in just 11 days.

Police say the driver of the family's minivan lost control while attempting pass a tractor trailer on Highway 16 near Valemont on Wednesday afternoon. The minivan swerved into the oncoming lane and was T-boned by an oncoming tractor trailer.  

A man in the van and two children, aged three and six were killed, while a woman and a three-year-old child were taken to hospital in Edmonton with serious injuries. The driver of the truck was not injured.

Also on Wednesday an 85-year-old woman was killed and an 86-year-old man airlifted to hospital after a commercial vehicle crashed into an SUV on the Coquihalla Highway.

Police say a northbound chip truck lost control on an icy stretch of the highway, crossed the median and collided with the southbound passenger vehicle head-on.

Deadly Highway 16

The crashes are the latest in series of deadly collisions on B.C.'s highways during the recent stretch of bad weather.

Eight of those deaths have occurred on one route — Highway 16 — which runs from Prince Rupert to Jasper through some of B.C.'s most rugged mountain terrain.

On Tuesday a 56-year-old man and 79-year-old woman travelling in a pick-up truck on Highway 16 near Vanderhoof were both killed when they collided with an oncoming tractor trailer.

Witnesses reported the truck appeared to get stuck in a deep rut, and when it broke free it crossed into the oncoming lane and was stuck.

On Jan. 2 another 56-year-old man was killed on Highway 16 near Purden Mountain after his pick-up struck an oncoming tractor trailer that had swung out into his lane. Five vehicles where eventually involved in the ensuing pile up on the highway.

And on Dec. 29 on Highway 16 near Houston a man and a woman from Prince Rupert were killed and two other people were injured when a SUV started spinning out of control and was T-boned by an oncoming pickup truck

Abnormal weather to blame?

RCMP Staff Sergeant Pat McTiernan says normally the highways are quieter right after the holidays, but he believes erratic weather conditions have contributed to the spike in crashes.

"The question was, well what's suddenly happened this year? I said, 'what's different?'"

McTiernan notes over the past couple of weeks, the region has seen snow, rain and rapid swings from freezing to thawing, and he believes many drivers aren't adjusting to the deep ruts and icy conditions on the roads.

He says RCMP are also looking into why there's an increase in the number of crashes involving commercial vehicles.

"It is concerning to us in that we're going to have increased industry in the Peace. We're going to see increased industry in the northwest."

McTiernan says reducing commercial vehicle collisions will be a major focus in the coming months.

Google Maps: Highway 16 in B.C.