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We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

Police priorities aim to protect the public

August 6, 2013

By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist, July 5th 2013

Addressing criminal activity causing death is the top priority of every police force in Canada. The leading cause of death as a result of criminal activity in Canada is drunk driving. There are more people killed each year because of the drinking-driving plague in our country than all other criminal activity combined.

Police priorities are ranked in a very obvious way. Saving lives and preventing personal injury are two of the goals that the enforcement entities vigorously pursue. For this reason, the police are permitted to do roadblock-style checks for the purpose of identifying drunk drivers. Their sole purpose is to prevent death on the roads and to protect the public.

Breathalyzer machines are a tool used for the purpose of public protection. The people who are criminally charged and convicted of impaired driving do not look like criminals at all. For the most part, they are people who form a cross-section of everyday society. Rehabilitation is usually not an issue. Penalties and deterrent are the main focus of our drinking-driving legislation and the resulting court action. The next time the police stop you in a drinking-driving road check, the life they are attempting to save may well be yours. It is their highest priority.

Excessive speeding is the second most life-threatening driving problem. The radar units used by police to identify speeders are a reaction to the death toll as a result of excessive speeding. Death and serious injury requiring hospitalization are a direct result of drivers who are unable to control their vehicles at ridiculously high speeds. Crash severity increases in a square proportion with a doubling or tripling of speed. Excessive speed kills.

Intersections are another life-threatening location for the public. The T-bone side-impact crash is often a deadly occurrence. In fact, the vast majority of fatal crashes happen as a result of a head-on or side-impact crashes. In some rural jurisdictions, they amount to 90 per cent of the recorded fatal crashes. Red-light cameras are now placed at high-traffic volume intersections prone to crashes, to add an additional tool for traffic safety enforcement.

In all of these cases, there is a constant theme. Technology is a key element to aid in the reduction of death on our highways and byways, and it is working. Throughout the 1970s and ’80s in Canada, we were losing about 4,000 citizens a year in fatal crashes. Today the number has dropped to about 2,200. Safer vehicle technology has also contributed to the dramatic reduction of carnage on our roads.

To truly appreciate the severity of the fatal crash-site situation, it is about time we all pictured ourselves as the police, ambulance, fire, or tow-truck driver responding at the scene.

The image of an innocent pedestrian, driver or cyclist being killed at a collision is a constant reminder to emergency and enforcement personnel to remain vigilant in the exercising of their responsibility to the public. Help them help us by being extra attentive at the critically important areas where fatal crashes are most likely to occur, namely the highway head-on, intersections, and be particularly vigilant in reporting suspected impaired drivers.

Again, the life you save may be your own.

Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and in the Central Interior of B.C. Steve is the former Western Canadian vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas, a registered B.C. teacher and a graduate of the University of Manitoba.

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