Vintage typewriter with sheet of paper and words “fake news”.

Hergott: Icy roads don’t cause crashes

Lawyer Paul Hergott claims icy roads don’t cause crashes, drivers do

My “Boxing Day Special” gift to you is to “call out” the news media for “fake news”.

I cringe every time I see these “fake news” headlines which all news media seem to be guilty of:

Dangerously icy roads lead to crashes” (CBC – Nov. 15, 2017);

Icy conditions causing havoc on Kelowna area roads” (Capital News – Dec. 3, 2017);

“Icy road leads to crash” (Castanet – Nov. 4, 2017)

Do you ever see these analogous headlines:

“Deep water leads to drowning”;

“Watery depths cause havoc on the beach”; or

“Sunny weather leads to drowning death”?

Don’t they sound nonsensical!

The public needs to know that the vast majority of drownings occur because of factors that are entirely within our control, i.e. alcohol or drug impaired swimming, lack of supervision of children who don’t know how to swim, adults over-swimming their abilities, walking / driving on thin ice, boaters failing to use life jackets, etc.

Those true causes of drownings are reported by the news media. That’s important. It helps the public recognize and protect against risky behaviours that can lead to drowning.

It also leads to an attitude of accountability and consequences. Blaming bodies of water and warm weather would lead to an attitude of “accidents happen”.

Icy roads are no more a cause of crashes than deep water is a cause of drownings.

We live in an area of the world that has winter. The season hits us year after year without fail.

Ice and snow, the natural consequences of winter, are just as predictable as the depth of water in a lake or pool.

If we blame the snowy and icy roads for crashes, we cause a powerless attitude of “accidents happen”.

Why don’t we lay the blame where it belongs, creating an attitude of accountability and consequences?

Consider these alternate headlines:

“Icy conditions take clueless drivers by surprise”;

“Too many crashes caused by overdriving winter road conditions”; and

“Drivers fail to slow down in slippery conditions; no wonder ICBC rates are going up”.

We need to grumble and complain about drivers who fail to use good winter tires and who overdrive the conditions. Not about the naturally occurring ice and snow.

Here’s a bit of common sense that I pulled from a case decided back in 1941, quoted by the British Columbia Court of Appeal in Savinkoff v. Seggweiss, a judgment released June 17, 1996.

“If roads are in such a condition that a motor car cannot safely proceed at all, it is the duty of the driver to stop. If the roads are in such a condition that it is not safe to go at more than a foot pace, his duty is to proceed at a foot pace.”

Messaging in the news media is powerful stuff. There is a reason why mass advertising is expensive: It works.

If the news media were to get together and resolve to report about crashes in a way that brings about a sense of accountability and consequences, there would be a natural improvement in driving attitudes.

An improvement in driving attitudes will reduce crashes and put a stop to rising ICBC rates.

Let’s get rid of the fake news and make our roads safer!

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