Is it still conceivable, in 2011, that someone rides in a car without attaching their seat belt? Unfortunately, yes, as the death of a young Galt student, Matthew Cloutier, tragically demonstrated last week. Last summer, we presented in these pages a story on the Sûreté du Québec’s travelling show that went across the province, where a mannequin was thrown out of a spinning vehicle. It is not a pleasant sight to see. Made of cloth, not of flesh and bone, the object propels itself from the car and lands a good dozens of yards away.
Can we blame his grieving seventeen year-old sister? Route 108 in Saint Catherine-de-Hatley was icy that day; she lost control of her car when another car swerved on the icy road. She will live with this for the rest of her life; punishment enough.
Which brings us to a question? Why is it that, in 2011, in the object that most people will actually use daily, spending countless years manipulating it, that schools do not teach students how to drive a car? Are we missing something here? Learning how to use a computer is mandatory; we have yet to see one kill someone, yet learning to drive a car is left to the good will of those who want to drive a car? We think that we are missing something in the reasoning.
Would a mandatory driving course, in the third level of high school ( when most dropouts quit school) have saved young Matthew Cloutier’s life? We will never know. Would it have prevented 23 year-old Dany Trudel from being high on drugs when he killed his sixteen year-old cousin while driving? Maybe, maybe not.
But it would have improved the driving skills of Matthew’s sister and of thousands of other young drivers, giving them a better chance of growing older, something that Matthew Cloutier will never know.
Most young drivers suffer from a well-known illness, called youth. After years, it goes away by itself, just to say that blaming age in these tragedies is refusing to admit that we were once young ourselves. Better built cars, a lot less driving under the influence than years ago, seat belts and other security measures mean that we have a lot less deathly accidents than before; statistics don’t lie on this subject.
Yet, the cliché is so valid when it hits a community: one death is one too many.
Our local school board was able to get our young students computer savvy. It could and should take the lead in making better drivers at school. As with the computer program, it would be an excellent initiative. We urge the commissioners to study the subject and find the ways and means of putting it in place.