Maybe Slow Down?

Since the previous Road Rules article on the April 6th crash that occurred north of Tisdale, Saskatchewan killing 16 of the 29 passengers in the Humboldt Broncos hockey team bus, Dayna Brons, the 24-year-old trainer has succumbed to her injuries, raising the fatality count to 16.

Because we want to learn how to prevent such crashes, because we want to learn how to respond even more effectively when they do happen, because we must find something of takeaway value in the ruins of this horrific tragedy, we sift through the rubble.

We are told the investigation will be “long and painstaking.”  Media reports have quoted retired RCMP collision analyst Rob Creasser saying, “months of work could lie ahead for the analysts and reconstruction experts … Weather, skid marks, visibility, speed and the mechanical condition of the vehicles are just a few of the factors that will eventually be analyzed … Mechanics will …examine the engines of the shattered vehicles for any defects.”

But there is understandably some impatience.  Observers want answers or at least more access and more openness from, as Christie Blatchford writing in the National Post put it, “the deliberately opaque and stubbornly non-communicative institutions that govern them and in which they place their faith… the RCMP, the provincial Health Authority and the Saskatchewan Justice Ministry.”

Citing the two brief statements from the Saskatchewan RCMP, —the first midday Saturday giving only minimal details and saying it would likely “take some time,” the second the following Tuesday, after “multiple media requests” “a brief, one-paragraph …rejecting a rumour that had been swirling through town,”— she has characterized them all as entrenched in “dated rigid rules and protocols, layers of bureaucracy and the firm belief in the public’s right not to know.”

Identification of the victims has been an issue.  Players Xavier Labelle and Parker Tobin were “respectively pronounced dead (and then alive) and alive but injured (and then dead).”  Surely, Blatchford writes, it is reasonable for the public to ask about the province’s identification protocols when mass casualties occur.

For what light they may shine on this case, Saskatchewan driving statistics are under consideration.  We have learned that while trending to the better, “Between 2007 and 2015, the most recent year for which data is available, Saskatchewan had either the highest or second-highest rate of road fatalities in the country.”

With “a population of more than one million,” [Saskatchewan] has suffered consistently high fatality rates — double the rate of Manitoba in 2010, of BC in 2011, of Alberta in 2012, and double the national average every year since 2008. Safety experts have been quoted saying, “Aside from the occasional collision with wildlife, Saskatchewan’s fatal crashes are almost exclusively due to human error: impaired drivers, distracted drivers, speeding drivers and not using seatbelts.”

Most crashes occur at intersections (as did this one). Amber flashing lights, turning lanes and rumble strips warning of an approaching stop sign have been acknowledged in the past by government spokespersons as engineering solutions.  Critics ask why these solutions have not yet been put in place at this intersection..

Maybe slow down?

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