Hergott: Shaming us to drive responsibly

The failure to pay attention to the road ahead of you is the overwhelming cause of car crashes—period, full stop, end of story.

Shhhhh…”—that’s a heads up for those who may wonder what the “*#” mean later in this column.

I figure if I do it this way I’ll avoid shocking sensitive readers who might be offended by “dirty words” being spelled out in print.

No, I am not going to unleash a tirade of thinly disguised profanity to express my displeasure with yet another ICBC rate increase, that said in the context of ICBC having been profitable last year and the prediction of profitability again this year.

I’ll leave that tirade to New Democrat MLA Mabel Elmore and others who point the blame for the increase on a provincial government that continues to take money from ICBC to put into general revenue.

I am actually quite pleased with ICBC for a change. Finally, the blame for ICBC rates is being placed squarely where it belongs.

ICBC spokesperson Adam Grossman is saying there’s a direct correlation between an increase in injury claims (which leads to an increase in insurance rates) and the rising number of people using electronic devices while driving.

“Distracted driving has now increased as the second leading cause of car crash fatalities in B.C.,” Grossman said.

“It’s actually the leading cause of rear-end crashes, which result in injuries.”

No kidding. The failure to pay attention to the road ahead of you is the overwhelming cause of car crashes—period, full stop, end of story.

That reality is the basis for my “One Crash is Too Many” road safety campaign.

It’s why the RCMP purposefully call them motor vehicle “incidents,” not “accidents.” It’s no accident when a collision occurs because you fail to pay attention to the road ahead of you.

Of course there is a correlation between increasing collisions and the increasing use of electronic devices while driving.

Don’t let the use of electronic devices distract us from the root problem, though. If we managed to prohibit the use of electronic devices while driving, while we would have fewer car crashes, we’d still have them. There were plenty of car crashes occurring before hand-held electronic devices were invented.

To somehow eliminate daydreaming and absentmindedness while driving; now that would make a real difference.

Government coffers would be overflowing with ICBC profits if we managed to do that.

But to achieve that would require a shift in driving attitudes from one of absent-minded complacency to one of focused attention.

Have you heard of “*#it Parkers of Kelowna?”  There is a website, as well as a Facebook page, where you can submit photos of vehicles parked in all sorts of horrendous ways—blocking sidewalks and fire hydrants, improperly parking in handicap spots, taking more than one parking space, etc.

The more aware we are about this website, the more aware we will be about the possibility that we will be called out publicly and shamed if we “*#it park” and a photo of our vehicle ends up on the website.

We also become more aware about how we and others park generally, keeping an eye out for those “*#it parkers” among us.

I am willing to bet that the website is actually changing parking attitudes and behaviours.

I wonder if driving attitudes and behaviours could change if that website concept was extended beyond parking to include people driving while using electronic devices.

If pedestrians or vehicle passengers could post smartphone photos of drivers with cell phones to their ears, for example, might that have a similar, positive impact? Might drivers feel shamed into keeping their hand-held devices tucked away?

What about photographs of every rear-ending driver and vehicle?

Clearly, the risk of having to pay an insurance deductible and the risk of causing/sustaining injury isn’t enough to cause drivers to pay attention. Might the risk of public shame do the trick?

With a crash in Kelowna alone occurring an average of 23 times per day, we could use a good dose of public shaming.