Hergott: Road safety intolerance

The magnitude of the loss represented by those driving crashes is absolutely mind boggling.

Each of us has or likely will be touched personally by a motor vehicle crash in our lives.

If there was some abhorrent driving behaviour that led to the crash, such as impaired driving or street racing, venomous feelings are directed at the perpetrator, with calls for the toughest consequences possible.

If not, if it was “just an accident,” we tend to be apathetic.

That apathy is totally understandable. Crashes happen, literally, all the time. It works out to approximately one crash every couple minutes.

ICBC statistics say approximately 260,000 crashes occur per year.

The magnitude of the loss represented by those crashes is absolutely mind boggling.

There’s our mandatory Autoplan insurance premiums we all pay.

These premiums to pay for liability insurance.

Liability insurance provides for money to compensate others for losses if we, ourselves, are the cause of “just an accident.”

But the cost of liability insurance is a small part of the big picture.

If you add up the cost of emergency services, health care, loss of productivity and all other “dollars and cents” losses arising from car crashes, you come to billions of dollars per year.

A 2007 Transport Canada study estimates $8.8 billion in losses to British Columbians alone.

Those dollars and cents are totally apart from the personal losses suffered by those touched by crashes.

Instead of motivating change, the magnitude of the problem seems to have the opposite effect.

When there’s that much of a torrent of water coming down Niagara Falls, what can we do to stop that flow?

Besides, accidents happen, the inevitable result of vehicles on roads. Do you find it interesting that we don’t tolerate accidents in the workplace like we do those on the roads?

WorksafeBC jumps into action to identify the causes of workplace accidents so as to come up with strategies to avoid them.

Safer procedures are identified and put into place, there is mandatory safety training, etc.

The simple truth is that the vast majority of those 260,000 crashes that occur every year would be avoided if each of us turned up the dial of our own, personal, “paying attention to the road ahead of us” knob.

If we simply turned up that knob, making a conscious effort to pay increased attention to the road ahead of us, those distractive behaviours would naturally stop.

If we continue to leave the knob alone, the infection will continue to do its damage and the torrent of water will continue to flow.

The first step to turning up the knob, in my view, is to stop thinking of crashes as accidents.

The word, arguably, is loaded by phrases like “accidents happen,” and “it’s just an accident.”

The RCMP, as I understand it, have long taken the word “accident” out of their vocabulary when referring to road traffic incidents.

Is “accident” really a loaded word? Would the universal avoidance of that word when referring to road traffic incidents, particularly in the media, have the positive impact of turning up the knob?

Are there academics out there who might be able to tackle this?

Do we need a study to follow the leadership of the RCMP?