Published on Friday, 22 July 2011
One of the great Canadian traditions is the holiday long weekend, especially during summer. Canadians climb into their vehicles and head to cottages, beaches and campgrounds for a few days of fun and relaxation.
But the reality of this tradition is often marred by tragedy. Traffic accidents often spike during this time and the causes of those accidents have more to do with driver error than road conditions, weather or visibility
Although the number of auto fatalities involving impaired drivers has fallen in recent years, MADD Canada estimates that there are still between 1,350 and 1,600 impaired crash fatalities each year (3.7 to 4.4 deaths per day).
"Safe driving" has become a popular mantra in our culture. The media are repeatedly intoning us to "buckle up," "slow down" and "don't drink and drive," and law enforcement agencies aggressively promote road safety with R.I.D.E. programs and safety blitzes.
Plus, in recent decades, automobiles have been designed with more advanced safety features, such as anti-lock brakes, air bags and electronic stability controls.
As a result of these multiple efforts, the number of Canadians killed in motor vehicle accidents dropped 52 per cent between 1979 and 2004, according to Statistics Canada.
As impressive as this statistic is, drivers continue to flaunt the laws of the road. During the recent Canada Day weekend, the OPP reported that traffic volumes were the highest they've been in a decade and several thousand traffic offences occurred over that three-day period.
Let us not forget that the automobile is a privilege. Driving any type of vehicle comes with a huge responsibility.
The automobile allows us the freedom to connect with friends and family. It allows us to view and experience all corners of this great country. It transports us comfortably to and from work.
Indeed, the automobile is a liberating technology, but it's often taken for granted. We enter our vehicles with a clear expectation that we (and our loved ones) will arrive safely at our destination.
For too many Canadians, road accidents (and tragedy) are a sad fact of life — especially during a holiday long weekend. A bad decision, made in a blink of an eye, can alter lives forever.
As the Aug. 1 long weekend approaches, Canadians will again be hitting the highways to enjoy recreational pursuits, and to soak up the great outdoors with a clear expectation that they will arrive safely.
Ask yourself: How many times have you let your guard down while driving, and narrowly avoided an accident? Have you caught yourself doing something illegal (texting, playing with a music device, and so-on), while behind the wheel?
To ensure that you don't become a statistic this long weekend, review your driving habits. Always be aware of your surroundings, anticipate what other drivers are doing, set your mirrors properly and use them wisely.
For added safety, advanced driving programs are available that will help to improve your driving skills (skid control, proper braking techniques, etc).
Here are eight things to avoid while driving, which could save a life:
Distractions (such as rubbernecking, eating, playing with music devices);
Mobile devices that don't have hands-free capability;
Drug use (certain prescription medicines can lead to drowsiness and lead to impaired driving ability);
Not paying attention.
On behalf of the Toronto Automobile Dealers Association, drive safely and have a happy holiday long weekend!