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Editorial: It’s back-to-school time. Drive much?

It’s time to reflect on our driving habits, and on the facts cited below – especially for the safety of everyone’s children. 

According to the  Canadian Paediatric Society, motor vehicle incidents are the leading cause of unintentional injury and death in Canada for children from 1 year old to 19 years old.

The  BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit  has found that “speeding, distracted driving (ex. mobile phone use) and impaired driving (alcohol, drugs or medications) are the leading contributing factors” to crashes – whether between vehicles, or for vehicles crashing into pedestrians or cyclists.

The World Health Organization  points out that, as pedestrians, children are the ones most likely to be injured or killed by careless drivers, especially between the ages of 5 and 14.

Yes, speed kills.

So children are especially vulnerable to death, or to life-long disability.  What does speeding have to do with it?

A 2010 study by the Deputy Chief Coroner of Ontario, Dr. Bert Lauwers,  cited statistics showing that a pedestrian struck by a vehicle travelling 50 km/hr is FIVE TIMES more likely to die than if struck at 30 km/hr.  “The data are irrefutable. The higher the rate of speed at which a pedestrian is struck, the greater the chance of death.”

The report also noted that 20% of the fatally injured children under the age of 16 had run out into the roadway.  Drivers beware!

Another report, this one released in April of 2012 by Dr. David McKeown, the Medical Officer of Health for the City of Toronto, stated (inter alia) that “Small increases in traffic speeds result in a disproportionately large increase in pedestrian fatalities. For example, pedestrians have an estimated 85% chance of dying when hit by a car travelling at 50 km/hr, but fatality rates decrease to less than 5% when the car travels at 30 km/hr.  

The same report recommends that speeds on residential streets should be reduced to 30 km/hr.

All right, you should have the picture by now.  Kids get hit by cars, especially cars driven by inattentive and speeding drivers.  They’re much more likely to die if the car is going much more than 30 km/hr.

There are also drivers who fail to stop as required by law when school buses have their flashing lights on.  Children have been killed by drivers that way;  an acquaintance of mine recently revealed that a young girl he knew had been killed by a driver illegally passing a school bus that had stopped, with lights flashing, to let the children disembark.  Every year at this time especially, he remembers her, and grieves.

If you’re not empathetic enough to care much whether or not your bad driving habits end up killing someone or condemning them to live the rest of their lives as invalids or limited by disability, and causing untold grief, perhaps you can be persuaded by the legal consequences -- to your pocketbook -- of flouting the laws. 

I won’t go into the economic and other consequences of injuring or killing a child because of driving stupidly fast, or while attending to your phone, or both.  This is just about fines and perhaps having your vehicle impounded for ignoring the laws.   

Sergeant Mike Wicentowich, head of the Trail and District RCMP detachment, has issued a plea for drivers to slow for school zones and playground areas, and to stop for school buses with their lights flashing.  He notes that enforcement will be stepped up when school starts, and has listed the fines (see below) for everyone’s convenience and consideration; so remember your budget, and think of all the things you could do with that money – instead of paying a fine to get somewhere perhaps a minute or so faster. (Or injuring a child. Or causing a child's death.)

Fines for school zone traffic violations:

Speeding in a School Zone -- Section 147(1) BC Motor Vehicle Act

  • Exceeding the speed limit by less than 21 km/h -- $196.00
  • Exceeding the speed limit by 21 km/h to 40 km/h -- $253.00
  • Exceeding the speed limit by 41 km/h to 60 km/h -- $368.00
  • Exceeding the speed limit by 60 km/h or more -- $483.00

Drivers may also have their vehicles impounded for speeding 40 km/h or more over the speed limit. 

Failing  to Stop for a School Bus -- Section 149 BC MVA - $368.00

Failing to Obey a School Guard -- Section 179(4) BC MVA - $167.00

Personally, I feel enraged by -- and filled with contempt for -- drivers speeding through school zones and residential areas, blowing through stop signs, looking at their devices while driving – and generally disrespecting everyone else’s safety and well-being for the most trivial of selfish reasons. I’m not alone in that. 

So, please, you drivers who too often speed and ignore the various laws designed to keep us all safer, do smarten up.  Obey speed limits, especially in school and playground zones and residential areas.  Stop for school buses. Turn your devices off while driving. 

As a safety warning on an appliance we bought a while ago said, “Avoid Death” – your own and others’.