OPINION: Crash culture?

With another fiscal year in the books, our provincial auto insurance provider is sharing what has become an all-too-familiar annual tale of woe.  According to stats released by ICBC, there was a record high 350,000 crashes in 2017.

The claims tab for that vehicular mayhem was a whopping $4.8 billion. Speeding, distractions and impaired driving were cited as three major contributing factors leading to injuries and fatalities.                                                                                               

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Highway 1 between Langley and Chilliwack averaged three accidents a day in 2017, a rate that has more than doubled in the past two years, despite traffic between Langley and Abbotsford increasing at a negligible pace of just two per cent each year. 

Granted, the number of trucks longer than 22.5 metres using the road has gone up by 70 per cent, from a daily average of 1,003 in 2014, to more than 1,700 last year. 

ICBC is in the process of implementing an array of solutions to stem the carnage. A variable speed system is being introduced on a section of Highway 1 and some observers believe widening the road to accommodate more traffic will help solve the problem. Across the province, more efficient deployment of red light cameras is also in the works.

Recently, the provincial government called on ICBC to launch new penalty rates for repeat offenders, particularly those caught speeding and driving while impaired or distracted. And a new driver penalty point program for minor driving violations is on the drawing board.                                                                                                                                         

After the $1.3 billion red ink bath ICBC took in 2016, more commonly referred to by B.C. Attorney General David Eby as a “financial dumpster fire,” the corporation set its sights on cost-cutting. Subsequently, a limit was placed on claims for minor injuries and suffering, which have risen by 265 per cent since 2000.                                                                                                                                         

As much as those measures are a step in the right direction, much of the blame has to be directed at the pervasive scofflaw driving culture in this province. At the heart of that deficiency is a widespread disregard for traffic rules that have become little more than token suggestions because enforcement is sporadic, and for the most part, inadequate.                                                                                                                                                

That begs the question: what if delinquent driving got the kind of zealous attention the City of Vancouver applies to ticketing parking violations? Chances are the accident rate would be halved within a year.  

Let’s not forget, human behaviour is shaped and modified by its consequences. Speeding, persistent red light running and a blatant disregard for stop signs have become routine activities which get drivers to their destinations faster with minimal surveillance or intervention.                                                                                                                                 

To help improve driving habits, ICBC is offering refresher tests for anybody inclined to brush up on the rules of the road. Whether that well-intentioned initiative leads to a wholesale attitude shift remains to be seen.                                                                                         

More realistically, until the ongoing lacklustre enforcement regimen gets beefed up substantially, the accident stats and corresponding costs will continue to swell unabated.  

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@ Copyright 2018 Squamish Chief

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