Remembering the Victims of Crashes

Take the Time for the National Day of Remembrance for Road Crash Victims

After November 11 has passed each year and the poppies have been put away, there’s another sobering day of remembrance that’s less widely known. On the Wednesday following the third Sunday in November, Canada observes the National Day of Remembrance (NDR) for Road Crash Victims.

Canada’s NDR is part of a global effort, the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, which seeks to:

• remember all people killed and seriously injured on the roads;
• acknowledge the crucial work of the emergency services;
• draw attention to the generally trivial legal response to culpable road deaths and injuries;
• advocate for better support for road traffic victims and victim families; and
• promote evidence-based actions to prevent and eventually stop further road traffic deaths and injuries.

According to the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, almost 300 people are killed each year by road crashes in this province, and many more are seriously injured. Our fatality rate of 5.7 deaths per 100,000 population is higher than the Canadian national average.

The sad fact is that road crashes are a leading cause of unintentional injury or death for British Columbians of all ages. The term “road crash” is used rather than “accident” because almost all crashes are preventable. Speeding, distracted driving, and impairment are all major factors in crashes, and all are avoidable.

Speeding topped the violations recorded during this year’s Operation Safe Driver Week held across North America in July, with almost half of the citations given to commercial drivers linked to excessive speed. Given that speeding remains the number one contributing factor to fatal road crashes in BC, this “need to speed” can be a deadly habit. ICBC states: “Speeding is a major contributing factor to car crash fatalities in BC. The faster you go, the longer it takes to stop—and the more dangerous a crash can be.”

With almost everyone now heavily reliant on smart phones for everything from driving directions to social connections, distracted driving has become an even more serious issue in the past few years. Although distractions can be anything that takes the driver’s mind, eyes, and ears off the road, phones are like magnets that many people cannot ignore, even while driving. In the article “Distracted Driving Puts all Canadians at Risk,” the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) writes: “Constant stimulation and short attention spans have become the norm, with phone alerts providing the soundtrack in our hectic lives….[M]ore than half of Canadians admit their cellphone distracts them while driving.”

Taking the wheel when impaired by alcohol or drugs is extremely dangerous and, of course, illegal. Being caught could cost you your vehicle, your driver’s license, or your job, or even put you in jail. Not being caught could cost you your life, or someone else’s. Although cannabis is now legal in Canada, driving under its influence is not. Remember that driving within three hours of consuming cannabis doubles the risk of being in a crash, and using alcohol and drugs together increases the risk even more.

When it comes to avoiding crashes, drivers of large commercial vehicles need to be even more cautious than the general public, both because they spend more time on the road and because their trucks are more dangerous. TIRF’s “Road Safety Bulletin: A Question of Size” states: “It is estimated that in Canada about 15% of highway deaths each year are due to collisions involving large trucks.” Professional drivers can and should be role models for the best in road safety practices.

Due to COVID, gatherings to mark the National Day of Remembrance for Road Crash Victims are not possible this year, but it’s a good reminder for everyone to reflect on how we can all drive safer. In his blog post on the NDR, road safety advocate Paul Hergott wrote: “If we pause to contemplate the magnitude and preventability of this ongoing loss, we might become motivated to take constructive steps to reduce it.”