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Attentive drivers are safer drivers

I fit right in there with the Venus and Mars bit.  Give me a problem and I want to fix it.

My wife would be quick to jump in to challenge me on that.  Admittedly, I’m not one to jump to changing light bulbs, and it might take a neighbor to come by to change a light switch or patch damaged drywall.  Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I refuse to accept that there is a problem out there that cannot be fixed; a challenge that cannot be overcome.

It is that kind of mind set that has led to so many resources being put into medical research, and those resources are paying dividends.

That kind of mindset has gotten robotics on Mars.

I have had that mindset about car crashes as well, but I tell you, I am getting really frustrated.  It’s the kind of problem that, in my view, should almost fix itself.  Car crashes are not inevitable.  They are not like death and taxes.  Expensive research is not required to figure out how to keep vehicles from smashing into each other.

I am consulted about a new car crash case probably an average of twice a week.  Again and again and again I hear the details of crashes that should never have happened.

I don’t know what percentage of my cases are rear-enders, but the percentage is a high one.  A rear-ender is when a driver is so oblivious to the road ahead that he or she smashes into the car in front.

How do you fix that?  How do you stop rear-enders from happening?  It takes a minimal amount of driver attention.  Drivers need to take a basic level of responsibility for the thousands of pounds of projectile we are navigating on our streets and highways.

Is it a problem worth fixing?  Perhaps that’s where the challenge lies.  We pay insurance to cover damage to our vehicles.  Your car is going to get fixed.  Unless there are broken bones, the media and insurance industry portray injuries as not being serious.  Why not text while you are driving if there are no real consequences?

Huge resources go to curing cancer because it is a problem worth fixing.  This problem is worth fixing as well.

A rear-ender can result in a lifetime of pain.  I see it all the time.  It doesn’t even have to be at full speed.  Permanent injury can result from relatively low speed collisions.

I don’t care how hyper-vigilant; how careful you are.  Control is taken away from you when another vehicle smashes into you from behind.  It can happen whenever you are in a vehicle.  It could happen to you, your spouse, your children, or to all of you at the same time.  It can happen today.

And shoot, rear-enders are just one of many types of crashes, all of which are entirely preventable, and all of which might impact on you or those close to you.

I have been doing my best to raise awareness, and change driving attitudes, by writing about it periodically in this column.  My efforts are clearly a drop in the bucket.  Maybe if we put all our drops together we can make a difference?  I ask you to please play whatever part you can play, whether it is by giving your son or daughter a stern talk about consequences, or refusing to accept inattention if you are a passenger.  I also ask that you please e-mail with whatever ideas you might have to help fix this problem.

Published February 6, 2011 in the Kelowna Capital News