Paul is in a rear-ender car crash – Part 1

Topics Covered

  • Explains that rear-ender crashes, which occur in BC every approximately 6 minutes, are avoidable by simply paying attention
  • Explains that crash victims at the scene could be permanently injured but not even realize at the scene that they’ve been incured at all
  • Notes that BC’s “no fault” system has stripped away consequences of inattentive driving and suggests a significant fine for inattentive drivers who cause crashes.

A sharp jolt rocked my pick-up truck.

It was about 8:15 a.m. this past Wednesday, on Highway 97 in West Kelowna.

I was stopped behind other traffic waiting for a light to change.

I know a little bit about car crashes. They occupied my almost exclusive area of practice until approximately a year ago.

The vast majority of crashes are entirely preventable.

Not by being a super-duper, highly skilled driver.

But by simply paying attention.

ICBC statistics show that there were 287,040 car crashes in 2022. Dividing that number by 365 gives 786 crashes every single day. That works out to approximately one crash every two minutes.

I could go through every crash scenario to illustrate how the cause is almost always simple inattention. But it’s easiest with the rear-ender.

Approximately 30% of all car crashes are rear-enders.

All you gotta do is monitor traffic in front of you.

Nothing complex about it.

A competent driver will be monitoring not only the vehicle immediately in front, but also traffic further ahead. This allows you to best anticipate changes in traffic flow.

But even a least competent driver should be able to notice traffic ahead of them slowing.

Or just sitting there at a complete stop.

But with a crash in BC every couple minutes, about 30% of which being rear-enders, that’s one rear-ender every six minutes.

We are an utter failure of road safety.

So yes, I was a little annoyed with the driver behind me who somehow failed to notice my fully stopped pickup truck.

After traffic cleared, I pulled forward expecting the absent-minded driver to follow so we could stop somewhere safe and exchange information.

But she didn’t.

Her vehicle remained at a full stop, not budging.

I reversed, returning to my initial position directly in front of her vehicle, and got out to find out what was going on.

She was in a state that I would best describe as hysterical. Clearly struggling to maintain her composure, her entire upper body was shaking as if she was shivering with hypothermia.

A couple of things I made out from what she was saying was that she had left a safe distance between her vehicle and my truck and that she had hit her head on the steering wheel.

My irritation quickly melted with the realization that the young lady had nothing to do with the crash. Her car had been hit from behind with such force that it had been propelled into the back of my truck.

And was replaced by feelings approaching outrage towards the driver whose level of inattention was so great that they plowed at significant speed into the back of a fully stopped vehicle.

I held my outrage in check as information was exchanged.

I remember the incredible grace of the young driver who spoke to the middle-aged offender with grace, responding to her apology with consoling words like “Things happen”.

She also said reassuringly: “At least nobody was hurt”.

I looked down at her, my heart full of compassion.

See, the significant damage to the connective tissues of the neck and back are almost never apparent at the roadside.

Just like it takes time for a heavy workout to lead to sore muscles, it takes time for the strained and torn connective tissues of the neck and back to become inflamed and painful.

But unlike sore muscles that ease over a few days, victims of rear-ender and other crashes often face weeks, months, and even years of pain and restriction of their function.

Some will never fully recover.

Your head has a similar weight as a bowling ball. It sits on a neck that hasn’t evolved to withstand the extreme forces that occur when that bowling ball is propelled backwards and forwards during a rear-ender crash.

I checked in with her the following day. On top of the neck and back pain and stiffness, she had a headache that wouldn’t quit.

I am crossing fingers and toes with the hope that she will be lucky and enjoy a complete recovery over time.

With our new “no fault” ICBC system, she will not receive anything of compensation for her pain and the impact that pain will have on her activities and enjoyment of life.

And the negligent driver who plowed into the back of her vehicle has exactly the same rights to funded care, vehicle repair and income loss.

We can do better.

“No fault” has stripped away all consequences for inattentive driving except for an increased insurance rating, which might or might not actually increase the cost of insurance.

We have fines for speeding, failing to wear a seatbelt and handheld cell phone use. How about a much more significant fine if your inattention has actually caused a crash?

I’m thinking $5,000.00.

To make it meaningful for those of all income levels, how about 10% of your annual reported income?

Consider how such a consequence would change driving behaviour.

No more absent-minded daydreaming. No more rolling across sidewalks that you should stop behind. No more backing up before being absolutely certain that it’s safe.

You would hold off on making that phone call while driving. You would tell your passenger to hush and help watch for hazards during periods of heavy traffic.

Does that sound like too severe a consequence? Think of the victim.

Sorry to those who were expecting a column about more ways to protect against your estate going to someone else’s kids. That’ll come next week unless I feel compelled to write a follow-up road safety column.

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