Since 2007, the third Wednesday of November has been set aside for Canadians to pause and remember those who have lost their lives or been seriously injured on Canadian roads. This year, the National Day of Remembrance for Road Crash Victims falls on November 16th.
The statistics for dying or being seriously injured in a car crash in Canada are staggering. On average, one person dies every five hours on Canadian roads. That’s 5 people every day, 37 people every week, and more that 160 people every month. In fact, each year in Canada, almost 1,900 people are killed in road crashes and another 165,000 are injured. The victims are not only those killed or injured, they are the friends, families and colleagues.
I would like to also bring attention to the first responders who often struggle with post traumatic stress after working the scene of a motor vehicle accident. This includes the 911 operator who first receives the call, the firefighters, paramedics, and police who rush to the scene of the accident, as well as the doctors and nurses who care for the injured victims upon arrival at the hospital. The police also have the heart-wrenching responsibility of informing the families of their devastating loss. These roles and responsibilities can take a huge toll on mental health and unfortunately this toll can have a ripple effect on the spouse, children, extended family, friends, and colleagues. Sadly, according to the Tema Conter Memorial Trust, at least 153 first responders have died by suicide in 2016 so far. On November 16th, I feel it’s important to also take a moment to acknowledge the courage and sacrifice first responders make as they step into the unknown each and every day to serve the public.
There are 4 key high risk factors that lead to crashes and all are preventable.
- Impairment – use of alcohol and prescription, over-the-counter and illicit drugs. Drug impaired driving is on the rise and is now rivalling alcohol impaired driving. Impairment also includes natural causes such as fatigue or distracted behaviours.
- Distraction – when the drivers attention is diverted from the task at hand the diversion reduces the driver’s awareness, decision-making capacity, and the ability to react. The result is an increase in the risk of driver error, near-crashes, and crashes. A common example of this is texting while driving.
- Occupant protection – failure to wear a seatbelt and having proper occupant restraints
- Speed and aggressive driving – driving faster than the legal limit and other driver behaviours can put other road users at risk of injury and contribute to crashes and casualties.
The National Day of Remembrance for Road Crash Victims is a day to remember those who have been killed or injured but it is also intended to be a powerful reminder to drive carefully. The alternative can be devastating not only for those directly involved in the crash but for the families, friends and colleagues of all people involved.