OPINION: Respect neighbours, health-care workers: drive safely

My message to them is blunt: now, more than ever, is not the time for stupidity at the wheel.

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General

MANY British Columbians are driving much less than they did before the pandemic.

As British Columbians continue to stick close to home and follow the directions of Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, this trend is likely to continue.

Unfortunately, having fewer vehicles on the road means some drivers can’t resist the urge to speed excessively. Other drivers still get behind the wheel after drinking or using drugs, or let distractions like texting or eating steal their attention. Ultimately, these drivers are stopped by the police, a ditch or a more tragic result.

My message to them is blunt: now, more than ever, is not the time for stupidity at the wheel.

People working in our health-care system have faced unparalleled pressures helping to save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic – and more recently, to restore our capacity to provide thousands of important surgeries each week.

The pandemic continues to touch thousands of people deeply, and it has affected people even when they make the best possible decisions to protect themselves. In contrast, road trauma is almost always preventable, with impairment, speed and distraction among the top contributing factors.

Driving responsibly is one way you can show respect for our dedicated health-care professionals and not add to their burden.

Driving safely is also easier on your wallet. Violation tickets for behaviours like excessive speeding and distracted driving carry costly penalties because of the proven, increased risk they pose of contributing to a serious crash.

What’s more, measures that our government has introduced in recent years, including electronic ticketing and intersection safety cameras, are making it easier to identify unsafe drivers. This means that we can impose sanctions faster, including participation in the Driver Improvement Program or licence suspension. It is worth noting that a single dangerous driving event may result in a driving prohibition of up to 24 months.

With the start of summer, there will be more children playing outside and more cyclists and motorcyclists on the roads. At the same time, physical distancing requirements mean it’s more likely that a cyclist, runner or walker may stray into the path of your vehicle.

When you’re slower, sober and paying attention, you’re better able to anticipate other road users’ behaviour and react effectively.

My colleague, Health Minister Adrian Dix, continues to encourage us to be “all in” as we follow Dr. Henry’s direction to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Echoing that call to the better nature of each of us, I ask you to commit now to being the best driver you know how to be, for everyone’s sake.