WINNIPEG – There’s an urgent call to all drivers in Manitoba to be careful on the roads after an alarming amount of traffic deaths in 2016.
Driving related fatalities have already reached a total of 85 in 2016, according to Manitoba Public Insurance. That number is compared to 78 for all of last year.
Of those deaths, 32 have been blamed on impaired driving, while another 16 people were killed because of speed. 11 were killed because they were not wearing their seatbelt.
“This is 2016. There’s no plausible excuse – no reason whatsoever for anyone anywhere to wilfully put their own lives or the lives of others at risk,” said RCMP Insp. Ed Moreland, Officer In Charge of D Division Traffic Services.
“The word ‘sorry’ in the aftermath is merely lip service.”
There has been an overall downward trend in fatal collisions in the province over the last two decades, but MPI says the spike this year confirms much more work still needs to be done.
Minister of Crown Services Ron Schuler believes the message is not being received by young drivers.
“Every new driver, we’ve got to speak to them, we’ve got to explain it to them,” Schuler said.
“That includes our 16-year-olds who are really excited to get behind the wheel and get in there and start driving, but you know what – drinking and driving kills. Not wearing your seatbelt kills. Speed kills, Distracted driving kills.”
Almost 70 per cent of the fatalities this year were male and nearly 25 per cent were under 25 years old.
Cheryl Derry lost her husband Mark in a head-on collision on Sept. 6, 2011 on Dugald Rd.
The other driver was 19-year-old Vann Hansell, who was intoxicated and had been texting while driving moments before the crash.
He was sentenced to two years in prison in 2015, but has since been released and banned from driving for 18 months.
Derry now advocates against distracted driving, but says she still sees drivers looking down at their phones.
“There are days where I actually have to pull over and stop driving because of the impact,” she said.
On average 28 people are killed in collisions linked to distracted driving, each year in Manitoba according to MPI.
In 2015, Manitoba enacted among the strictest distracted driving laws in Canada. Drivers now face five demerit points and a $200 fine, if caught using an electronic device while driving. Those who already have demerit points on their driving record could be forced to pay up to $3,200 if found guilty.
Derry believes there are still some challenges, despite the harsh penalties.
“People don’t tend to do change well, it takes a long time for change to occur,” Derry said. “You need to almost know somebody that it’s happened to for you to stop (driving distracted).”
Schuler was also adamant that legislatively, the province has done everything they can, and said “if you’re caught drinking and driving, we do seize the vehicle. The laws are all there.”
But Schuler believes that it is down to each person to make the right decision and spread the message that impaired driving and texting and driving is not acceptable behaviour; they ultimately choices that can take lives.
Schuler added, “I suspect this will never end. We’re going to have to do this forever, to remind people.”
Safety Tips Which Could Save A Life
- Have a plan before you head out for an evening of partying. Take a cab home or have a designated driver selected beforehand.
- If you feel the need to text, pull your vehicle over to a safe area. Texting while driving takes your eyes off the road.
- Never get into a vehicle with a driver who has been drinking or consuming drugs. It could be the last thing you do.
- Speed kills! Be aware of the posted speed limit and drive to road and weather conditions.
- Buckle up. It takes one second and could very well save your life.
– With files from Adrian Cheung