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Simple first step to driving safety: walk to work

I took another step this morning in a campaign I have initiated to prevent car crashes.

I am cautiously optimistic that the campaign, “One crash is too many”, will have a positive impact on driver attitudes and correspondingly reduce crash related injuries and deaths.

The step I took this morning, though, had nothing to do with driver attitudes.

It was quite literally a step: having to do with my feet.  But it was more like 2,100 steps if you assume an average of one step per metre.

The distance between my home and my office is 2,100 metres.  Yes, I walked to work.

With my desperate need for exercise, and a time investment of only 20 minutes, it shouldn’t have taken an engaging discussion with a road safety engineer to get me on my feet for my morning commute.

The engineer I had the pleasure of meeting with recently is Dr. Gord Lovegrove, faculty at the School of Engineering, Faculty of Applied Science, at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan campus.

The label I gave of “road safety engineer” is probably inappropriate, minimizing the breadth of Dr. Lovegrove’s expertise, but he certainly does have a passion for road safety.

We met to talk about our mutual passion, each of us coming from entirely different perspectives.

Dr. Lovegrove was virtually crawling out of his skin with insights and ideas about road safety.  It was one of his ideas that led me to take a stab at walking to work.

It’s a simple concept, but one that had never occurred to me.  If you reduce the number of drivers, you reduce the number of crashes.

Reduce the number of drivers quite dramatically, by dramatically improving public transit, bicycle and pedestrian lanes, and you reduce the number of crashes quite dramatically.

I had always thought of public transit and other alternatives to the single occupancy vehicle as being good for the environment.  I had thought of bicycling and walking as having the added benefit of improved health.

The connection with traffic safety had never occurred to me.

I wonder if it has occurred to our political leaders who decide how much money to put into transportation alternatives.

I wonder if it occurs to ICBC when they choose how to allocate the $46 million per year they have budgeted for road safety.

Car crashes are expensive.  The economic and social costs run approximately 9 billion dollars per year in British Columbia alone (most recent data as of 2007).  If we do not recognize the fact that taking drivers off the road will reduce crashes, we will put too few dollars into initiatives that will make that happen.

Take a step with me.  Consider alternatives to putting your vehicle on the road.

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Published February 9, 2012 in the Kelowna Capital News