This past summer we became accustomed to reading good news stories about automobiles. The newspaper sidebars—“Motorcyclist dies” or “Pedestrian hit”—didn’t disappear, but multi-column attention on automobiles was mostly paid in business stories. The saving of the North American auto industry, and ‘cash for clunkers’—now over in the United States and not about to happen in Canada, at least from government coffers— were big stories.
In mid-August, a marketing story proclaimed Canada, out of five countries—the US, the UK, Australia and New Zealand—as having the largest number of different anti-drinking and driving campaigns as well as the lowest drunk driving fatality rate: 2.61 per 100,000 as compared to the US highest rate of 4.54 per 100,000. At about the same time, ICBC announced it was cutting optional insurance rates by an average of 3% effective October 1st. ICBC’s president said, “[W]e are continuing to see a decline in the number and total cost of injury claims.”
Lower Mainlanders celebrated the opening of the new Golden Ears toll bridge and Vancouver’s new status as the first major Canadian city with a rapid transit link to its international airport. And the bike lane experiment on the Burrard Bridge has been, thus far, “uneventful.” Some change from this build-up of good news came from an upfront acknowledgment of long-weekend road safety risks in the “Health Tips” column in The Province newspaper entitled, “Avoid holiday disasters.” The four tips: Don’t text and drive, don’t drink and drive, don’t speed, and do wear your seat belt were a perfect summary of the basics.
Then grim reality returned to the front pages: On August 26th, a right-turning truck in Vancouver hit a mother crossing the street pushing her two-year-old daughter in a stroller killing the baby and injuring the mother. Reportedly, the male truck driver had twice fallen asleep on his previous job as a result of his insulin-dependent diabetes.
On August 31st, in Toronto, a 33-year-old bicycle courier died after being dragged about 100 metres while hanging on to the curbside of a vehicle driven by the former Attorney General of Ontario, Michael Bryant. Mr. Bryant has been charged with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death.
On September 3rd, in Jaffray, BC, a car that lost control speeding around the corner killed an eight-year-old boy biking to the local creek. The driver who fled the scene was reportedly under a one-year driving prohibition for impaired driving.
On September 5th, in Port Coquitlam, an SUV collided with a sedan killing the sedan driver and injuring the three passengers. The SUV driver and his passenger fled the scene but later turned themselves into police.
On September 7th, in Burnaby, a car driven by an elderly man plowed through two gas station pumps before crashing into a recently gassed-up car. The crash ignited an intense fire. Miraculously, no one was killed. What caused the striking car to lose control is under investigation.
Clearly, it will be a long time before all news is good news for motorists.