By Stan Ashbee
Sunny South News
Students at Kate Andrews High School in Coaldale received an eye-opening presentation with a mock motor vehicle collision (MVC) last Wednesday morning staged by Coaldale and District Emergency Services (CDES), Coaldale RCMP and other local law enforcement and emergency-related personnel.
“We do it around this time every year, usually before the long weekend. We just want to raise some awareness before you guys go out on long weekends and the summer break about safe driving and making smart decisions, while you’re out there driving,” said CDES Fire Chief Kevin McKeown, as he addressed students prior to the live mock MVC scenario.
Long weekends, McKeown noted, are statistically deadly ones.
“As we head out of town — there’s more people on the highways, trailers, and motor bikes are on the road. Warmer weather means campers are coming out, bicycles and pedestrians,” he pointed out.
In 2015 between May 15 and July 29, he added, there were 75 traffic fatalities in the province.
“That’s one traffic fatality a day — that’s pretty staggering numbers. Most of these are preventable,” he said.
Last year, according to the chief, it was no better — with 17 traffic deaths in the province before the May long weekend.
“Casualty rates for those highest per persons between the age of 15 and 24. That’s why we like to hit this age group. We have some new drivers and it’s good to give you some awareness before you get your licences or if you have them already that when you’re out on the highways driving, especially on long weekends, you’re doing it very safely,” McKeown said.
Male drivers aged 18 and 19, he added, are the highest rate of all drivers involved in casualties.
To bring down the casualty statistic numbers and as a measure of prevention McKeown told students not to drink and drive and have a plan.
“Have a designated driver, plan ahead, call a cab, or call your parents if you need to. If you’re a driver and decide to not drink, please don’t get in a vehicle with them and tell your friends not to drink and drive. As much as you may not want to, call your parents at 3 a.m., that’s a smart decision and they will be thankful you called them and you’re home safe,” he said.
As for distracted driving, he noted, put cellphones away when behind the wheel.
“That text from your buddy, it can wait five minutes, until you’re pulled over.”
“Slow down, take your time and please be patient out on the roads. If you don’t have a good view, while you’re making a turn at an intersection, take your time and wait until you have a good view before you make that turn and please, please wear your seat belts,” he said.
Constable Shawn Walker from the Coaldale RCMP said in regards to Criminal Code investigations and collisions, when police come across a collision scene and the fire department has already arrived or the ambulance is on scene looking after someone involved in the accident or personnel are trying to keep onlookers away — Walker’s job is very simple.
“Find out who you are, your name, your date of birth, where you were sitting, which window you were thrown out of, where can I find some identification on you and I take a look at the scene. I’m looking for cellphones, booze and I’m going to be checking the seat belts and clasps and everything, to see how your injuries match inside the vehicle,” Walker explained.
Walker said the process is crucial because he has already started his investigation, even if there are no Criminal Code charges.
“Laying a charge or writing a violation ticket, that’s just a second. I don’t care about that. I’ve got up to six months to conduct the investigation. The biggest thing right there, is I have to know exactly what happened. I’m pretty good at that. I have 20 years into the job. I can kind of figure stuff out pretty easy,” he added.
If a cellphone was found in a collision, Walker said, it can probably be linked back to the driver, if he/she was texting or talking on the phone behind the wheel.
“That’s my job. That’s what I have to do. It will be a Criminal Code investigation if I decide at looking at it. I can get a warrant to actually pull your cellphone records and I can bring down the last texts sent or received by you or sent out before the collision. You wouldn’t believe what we find. It’s just nuts,” he said.
One job Walker doesn’t necessarily enjoy is when he has to put on his gloves to help save a life or to make sure an accident victim can breathe, prior to emergency services arriving on scene.
“It’s not a fun part of the job. I don’t like it at all,” he said, adding it can be a very difficult part of the job. Another is if Walker has to notify next of kin.
“That’s after the entire scene has been looked at and we’ve taken the drawings and I’ve figured out who is who in the zoo, whose parents they are of this child and then we have to go and tell the parents. Tell a family their child is dead. This is part of the investigation, but it’s pretty tough. We have to say ‘your child is dead because’ or ‘your father is dead because’ or your mom or your aunt. Whoever it is. These investigations, where I’m there and trying to figure out what happened. If you are dead or your brother’s dead or your sister or cousin and they ask what happened. I have to be able to explain it. It’s awful, but that’s about doing the best job I can,” Walker explained.
According to Walker, he works with some fine men and women and they help him do his job.
“I want you to live. If you are in a collision in a car or bus or ran over a dog because you were distracted, I still have to do my job. But, if you run over someone or hit the ditch or crashed into a vehicle and you kill people, all of a sudden we’re going to go from distracted driving to Criminal Code charges and you don’t want that,” he said.
Walker told students just drive careful and eyes matter.
“Don’t trust the other vehicle in the other lane. You don’t know who they are, you just hope they stay in their lane. If you see the police pulling over someone, move out of the way, move to the left and slow down,” he added. That goes for fire and ambulance too.