This past weekend the OPP launched “Operation Impact” to crack down on the “Big Four” driving factors that “continue to be the primary sources contributing to serious injuries and deaths in motor vehicle collisions,” according to OPP Constable Brenda Evans in their press release.
Those four deadly driving indiscretions the OPP are referring to are 1. Distracted driving, 2. Impaired driving, 3. Aggressive driving and 4. Improper or lack of seat belt use.
The OPP news bulletin about this campaign stated that “249 people have lost their lives in motor vehicle collisions so far this year on OPP-patrolled roadways.” Since 95 per cent of all traffic collisions are avoidable, that translates into 95 per cent of these fatalities being caused by driver error. That breaks down into poor driver training and lack of sound driving judgement. Making choices that knowingly put peoples’ lives at risk is just selfishness.
All of these “Big Four” driving sins are a matter poor judgment or not thinking on the part of the motorists. With the extent of media coverage on these same driving topics these days, anyone trying to plead ignorance would have to have lived their lives with their heads stuck in a tail pipe. Everyone who can read or watch TV knows these four motoring mistakes are the reasons for many of our traffic fatalities and injuries. No excuses.
Why are some motorists still making these unwise and deadly choices?
Let’s take a look at these four problems.
1. Distracted driving: this ranges from cell phones – hands free or hand held, passenger conversations, day dreaming, fussing with the CD player, radio or GPS, driver “infotainment” screens, dealing with child passengers or thinking about work, home life or anything else that prevents the driver from focussing and processing driving information such as traffic flow, road and weather conditions, pedestrians, cyclists etc. The only information a driver should concern themselves with while they are driving is information about their motoring environment. When behind the wheel, a driver needs to make decisions that can be fatal or lifesaving. Being distracted even for a few seconds can prevent the driver from picking up on vital information that can be the difference between life and death. Should they brake and swerve to the right or left? Is that traffic light about to change to red? These are important decisions that need full driver attention and are always more important than socializing with passengers or friends on the cell phone. When driving, let’s just focus on driving.
2. Impaired driving: this sin has started to become a social taboo after too many years of passive acceptance. Even at that, there are still far too many impaired driving fatalities and charges. Just this past weekend a life was lost in a collision on a major 400 series highway to a “wrong-way” driver who has been charged with impaired driving. Earlier this summer another family had to live through the grief of losing two members to another wrong-way driver who was also charged with impaired driving. To end up driving the wrong way on a major 400 series highway would mean driving past several wrong-way signs and using the wrong ramp. A high level of impairment would be needed to miss all those warning signs. Unfortunately, one of the first senses to be affected by alcohol is the sense of judgement. This means anyone drinking usually loses the perspective of how impaired they really are. Many of us have heard someone say after a few too many drinks, “I’m alright to drive,” when they obviously are far from it. This lack of accurate judgement affects speed, following distance and directional judgement too.
3. Aggressive Driving: This includes tailgating and lane hopping. I call it “stupid driving”. This style of driving is all about selfishness. Motorists that try to get from point A to point B as fast as possible and will drive in an aggressive and dangerous manner to try to achieve that goal. We all need to slow down, relax, reduce the stress and danger and “go with the flow”. Studies show, and the math proves it, that trying to drive that extra 10 or 15 km/h faster really doesn’t get you to your destination all that much faster. It is simply not worth the risk. Remember this saying, “Anyone can drive fast. Smart drivers know when not to.”
4. Not using seatbelts: This is such a “no brainer”. Seat belts are the number one passive safety feature in any vehicle (the driver is the number one overall safety feature). Air bags only supplement the seat belts. Their use is limited. Seat belts are a proven life saver and the only thing stopping the occupants from slamming into the inside of their own vehicle at the velocity the vehicle was moving at on impact. For anyone who refuses to wear a seat belt, I have one simple test. Run as fast as they can into a wall. If they won’t do that, why wouldn’t they wear a seat belt. At least when running into a wall they will only collide with the wall at about 15 or 20 km/h. Without a seat belt they are likely to collide with their windshield or dashboard at speeds over 25 km/h and possibly as high as 80 km/h. For those who stand on their “rights” not to wear one, then they should sign a waiver that says if they refuse to wear their seat belt, their OHIP costs will not be covered. If they crash, they pay for their own hospital and rehab costs – if they survive. If a proven safety device is available and an individual refuses to use it, they should take the responsibility of their own health costs. They shouldn’t expect the public to pay for their unwise decision.
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