By Stan Ashbee
Sunny South News
Sunny South News asked a few municipal councillors about their thoughts on this year’s special section, “Drive to Survive.” The following are some of the responses we received.
Picture Butte Mayor Wendy Jones said the messages of “don’t drink and drive,” “don’t be distracted when driving” and “use caution when driving on winter roads” are not new.
“We see and hear these messages every day, every month, year and each winter and holiday season. We are intelligent people, we know what can happen when we don’t heed these warnings and act appropriately and safely. Let’s strive to drive safely and intelligently. Driving impaired, or sending that text while driving or speeding on icy roads is not worth losing a life,” said Jones.
She added, be smart and be safe this holiday season and always.
“If you can’t focus on driving safely give your keys to a friend who can.”
Picture Butte town councillor Teresa Feist said she hopes anyone driving would take care and not drive under the influence of any substance and think about how they are putting others at risk being either impaired or being distracted.
“Especially with winter driving because you then have the icy road conditions to contend with, as well,” Feist said.
Jacen Abrey, a Coaldale town councillor and a member of Coaldale and District Emergency Services said, if you drink please don’t drive.
“You not only affect your life but the lives of others including the first-responders who have to live with the tragedy engraved in their minds,” said Abrey.
Coaldale Coun. Bill Chapman said from a professional perspective and from someone who has driven everything from buses to semis, he has a great appreciation for the road and other vehicles around him.
“Being impaired, or distracted by texting is something I am disciplined about not being a part of. Through my 43 years of driving, my own sense of confidence continues to be marked by my ability to do what is right. My driver instructor had told us about the three ‘R’s in defensive driving. Read the road ahead. Ride to the right. Ride off the road. We were taught to, ‘expect the unexpected,’” Chapman explained.
Chapman admits he isn’t the world’s most perfect driver.
“There have been collisions and my worst collision was in a semi on May 23, 1986. It occurred in the Crowsnest Pass. Travelling in excess amount of speed though some turns, my rig completely rolled over into the ditch pinning me inside. With almost 100,000 pounds of weight surrounding me, I was truly grateful. The fire department from Blairmore came out and were successful in getting me out. It was their first attempt with the new Jaws of Life they had purchased only a month earlier. To this day, I am truly grateful for the work of the fire departments in every jurisdiction, particularly my home of Coaldale,” Chapman said.
One personal incident Chapman recalls took place on Highway 3 on the Crowsnest Trail on the overpass at 13 Street in Lethbridge.
“I was west bound and I noticed another vehicle coming right at me going the wrong way. I had nowhere to move because there were vehicles alongside me. I hit the brakes hard and tried to get behind the vehicle to my right. The oncoming vehicle managed to catch the rear corner of my pickup and spun me around on the highway,” he noted.
When everything stopped, Chapman added, he was facing the wrong way, as well.
“Fortunately, other vehicles had begun to slow down and one car stopped and came over to see if I was alright. His name was Chris Spearman, now the mayor of Lethbridge. The vehicle travelling the wrong way on the highway had started somewhere on the west side and was heading out to Coaldale for coffee. Can you imagine if he had made it the whole way?”
The police officer who took Chapman’s statement remarked Chapman’s defensive driving skills had saved some lives.
“The other driver was safe and not injured. However, his licence was taken away for good, as he was very elderly,” said Chapman.
Chapman said other collisions, which were not his fault, took place while he was driving at Lethbridge Transit.
“All those cases were ones where other drivers were travelling with undue care and attention and ran red lights,” he said.
To this day, Chapman said, he tries to live by the mottos taught in driving school.
“Even in winter, or the heat of the summer, there is something to be watchful for. Whether it be road conditions or other drivers and their vehicles, I would hope my own example and defensive driving will make the roads safer for others,” said Chapman.