Car crash victims remembered in Kelowna

Organizer of Day of Remembrance for Car Crash Victims event says more education is needed for drivers.

Day of Remembrance for Road Crash Victims event organizer Paul Hergott (right) introduces speaker RCMP Cpt. Jesse O'Donaghey at the Wednesday evening gathering in Kelowna.

Oh, the irony.

Just as the crowd that gathered Wednesday night in a shopping mall parking lot in Kelowna to remember those who have died in traffic accidents on Canadian roads paused for a moment of silence, that silence was shattered by the sound of a crash just a few yards.

No one was described as seriously injured in the two-car collision at one of the city’s busiest intersections—Harvey Avenue and Dilworth Drive—but the crash seemed to add an exclamation point to event organizer Paul Hergott’s call for more driver vigilance and safety on our roads.

“I say that we have been missing the point with our approaches to safety,” said Hergott, a personal injury lawyer based in West Kelowna. He also writes a weekly column for the Capital News that regularly calls on drivers to make better, more educated decisions behind the wheel.

“We have been focusing our attention and our resources on the symptoms rather than the illness,” said Hergott about the current approach to road safety.

car crashHe said, in his mind, is the illness is poor driving attitudes built on a lack of understanding and appreciation of the magnitude of loss and destruction that can arise from a motor vehicle collisions, a sense of over-confidence in a driver’s belief in his or her ability to multi-task behind the wheel and a culture where driving is pushed to the back burner of priorities, secondary to whatever else takes their attention.

And the biggest symptom of that “illness,” he said, is injuries.

According to statistics, 1.25 million people are killed on roads around the world every year in vehicle collisions. In Canada, an average of five people per day are killed. In B.C., on average, one person is killed in a traffic collision every 30 hours. And, according to latest available ICBC statistics, for every traffic death in this province there are 300 road traffic injuries.

The outdoor evening event in Kelowna Wednesday, was held in the parking lot of Orchard Park Shopping Centre.It was the marking of the Day of Remembrance here.

But Hergott said while the event is recognized around the world, including by Canada, the Kelowna gathering is believed to be the only one in B.C. and one of just a handful in Canada.

He said educating the public about better driving habits, not just penalizing them when they are found to be breaking the law, is crucial to making our roads safer.

Both the Kelowna and West Kelowna fire chiefs spoke briefly at the gathering, as did representatives of the Ambulance Paramedics of B.C.,the RCMP, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers and a local organization Dad Designated Drivers, who give youngsters a safe ride when they need it.

A proclamation marking the day was read out on behalf of Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran by city Coun. Tracey Gray and West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater, who still suffers from the effects of a serious car crash in downtown Kelowna 35 years ago also spoke.

The fire chiefs had some sobering comments for the crowd of about 100 people.

As first responders, firefighters are often the first ones at the scene of a crash, they said, and the impact can be dramatic.

West Kelowna fire chief Jason Brolund said there were more than 1,100 crashes combined on both city’s streets last year, averaging more than three per day.

“If we can prevent just one crash, that will be progress,” said Kelowna fire chief Jeff Carlisle.

For more information about road safety and what is being done here to help educate drivers, as well as to contact local groups trying to make a difference on local roads, go to the One Crash Is Too Many website at onecrashistoomany.com.

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