Don’t be a statistic
O n the Veterans Memorial Highway, just past the North River exit heading towards Carbonear, there is an obvious double fishhook of black rubber on the pavement, lines that end abruptly, along with scattered paint marks.
If you know why the skid marks are there, they’d probably give you pause every time you passed them. The highway opens up there, and the solid line goes to the dashes that mean, if it’s clear, you can pass. It’s just past a rock face on the right, spruce and juniper just coming into the bright green of early summer on both sides.
It’s also the scene of a fatal accident, the exact spot where the lives of two drivers, a 67-year-old man and a 35-year-old woman, were claimed. An accident that happened at 1 p.m. on a weekday.
Unless you’re a friend or family member of one of the three victims involved - a 33-year-old man was taken to hospital in critical condition as well - the accident has probably faded into your memory, even though it was just over a month ago. It’s recent enough that the RCMP hasn’t established a cause.
Another man died in a separate highway accident on the Trans-Canada Highway on the same day. Since then, a cyclist has died in a crash on the TCH near the Holyrood Access.
So far, the number of fatalities on the province’s roads has been quite staggering: in 2015, in areas under the RCMP’s jurisdiction, there were 34 fatalities in 27 separate accidents. So far in 2016 (as of June 20), there have been 16 deaths in 13 crashes, a number that includes a horrific five-fatality crash on the Trans-Canada Highway near Chapel Arm on March 22. If road deaths continue with the same frequency, we could easily reach 2015’s number again.
The thing is, cars are getting safer, with the constant addition of safety features. In fact, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Administration put out a research paper in 2013 that outlined the increase in survivability in newer vehicles. In fatal crashes, a driver of a car that was between four and seven years old was 10 per cent more likely to be killed than a driver of a car that was three years old or less. The numbers climbed the older the vehicle was.
The study cites a series of added measures: “These safety improvements include the number and quality of frontal and side air bags; seatbelt quality (including seatbelt load limiters and pretensioners); electronic stability control; antilock braking systems; roof crush strength; energy-absorbing steering assemblies; traction control; lane departure warnings; and forward collision warnings.”
Yet, people continue to die and suffer serious injuries on our roads, often as a result of excessive speed and driver distraction.
What part of the car isn’t getting better and safer?
In many cases, we only have to look in the mirror. — This editorial originally appeared in The Telegram