Targa safety

Get­ting the mes­sage out turn by turn

The Compass - - OPINION - BY KEVIN HIGGINS TRANSCON­TI­NEN­TAL ME­DIA

No mat­ter how many safety pre­cau­tions and prepa­ra­tions you have in place, ac­ci­dents are bound to hap­pen — that’s why they are called ac­ci­dents. They oc­cur out-of-the blue and with­out warn­ing.

How­ever, Gan­der’s Janet Brake has taken it upon her­self to try and re­duce the risk to the spec­ta­tors of a unique North Amer­i­can mo­tor­sport that oc­curs each Septem­ber in eastern and cen­tral New­found­land — Targa New­found­land.

A 10-year Targa New­found­land vol­un­teer, Brake spent the past five years co-or­di­nat­ing the op­er­a­tions of the Gan­der stage for the 2,200-kilo­me­tre race, and driver and spec­ta­tor safety was al­ways first-and-fore­most in her mind for those in­volved in her stage of the eight-day event.

This train of thought changed dras­ti­cally last year fol­low­ing a spec­ta­tor be­ing injured in For­tune when one of the com­peti­tor’s ve­hi­cles left the road and went onto a res­i­den­tial prop­erty. It was re­ported a 67-year-old woman suf- fered a bro­ken leg and pelvis, as well as cuts to her face.

It was the first spec­ta­tor in­jury in the 10-year his­tory of Targa New­found­land, but it was enough to set off warn­ing alarms for Brake that more needed to be done to bet­ter en­sure spec­ta­tor safety head­ing into its 11th year.

“Safety has al­ways been a ma­jor fo­cus (of Targa New­found­land), but I’m not sure that af­ter so many years with­out an in­ci­dent that spec­ta­tors haven’t be­come com­pla­cent with the safety pre­cau­tions we (Targa New­found­land) have in place,” said Brake. “With this in mind, and af­ter wha t h a p pene d i n For tune , I ap­proached Targa New­found­land and said I want to ed­u­cate spec­ta­tors on how to spec­tate safely.”

She started im­me­di­ately putting a plan to­gether, and for the past three months has spent a con­sid­er­able amount of time trav­el­ling the Targa New­found­land route pro­mot­ing spec­ta­tor safety in a num­ber of dif­fer­ent ways.

“The cam­paign is re­ally a mes­sage for spec­ta­tors to choose wisely when choos­ing a site to watch this great mo­tor­sport, and to un­der­stand the mean­ing of th e dif fer­ent coloured tape used to mark ar­eas of con­cern along the route,” she said, adding she also de­vel­oped six safety tips for spec­ta­tors to fol­low (see Spec­ta­tor Safety Tips box).

“I’ve been try­ing to get this out any­way I can to make sure as many spec­ta­tors as pos­si­ble know these tips and un­der­stand the tape reg­u­la­tions.” Brake said, while the safety cam­paign should get the mes­sage to more spec­ta­tors than in the past, spec­ta­tor safety is a team af­fair.

“Get­ting the mes­sage out is cer­tainly im­por­tant, but spec­ta­tors, them­selves, need to be proac­tive in their own and oth­ers safety,” she said, not­ing that if a spec­ta­tor sees some­one in an area of con­cern they should in­form that per­son or one of the trained safety mar­shalls who will be lo­cated at var­i­ous sites through each of the stages.

“The mar­shalls also need to make it their pri­or­ity to en­sure spec­ta­tors safety, and spec­ta­tors need to re­spect and

COLOUR CODED – Targa vol­un­teers, from left, Chris­tine King, Janet Brake and Trace Le­Drew.

lis­ten to the safety mar­shalls. These peo­ple are crit­i­cal to the safety and suc­cess of the event, as they are the ones with lo­cal knowl­edge, and knowl­edge is key.

“It all comes down to work­ing to­gether, be­cause all we re­ally want is ev­ery­one to en­joy this amaz­ing event in a safe man­ner.”

khig­gins@gan­der­bea­con.ca

Photo by Kevin Higgins/the Bea­con

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