Cottage commuting safety a priority all summer long

By James Pasternak

One would think that an Ontario Provincial Police veteran who has been watching commuters for years, would run out of stories to tell. But every spring and summer, Sgt. Bob Paterson of the Caledon detachment of the OPP is shaking his head as people driving to the countryside and back mess things up.

With approximately 500 people being killed each your on Ontario’s roads – and so many more being injured or compromised for life – the need to stick to the basics should be perfectly clear, says Paterson.

Remember, it’s not always the other guy.’ Look at your own driving. Could it be me who sometimes speeds, tailgates, changes lanes without signalling, or shares a single finger salute” when angry?”

Sgt. Paterson is the creator of the CARP-sponsored, OPP-delivered driver refresher seminar called Drive Wise.

The opening of the cottages on this Victoria Day long weekend also coincides with Canada Road Safety Week, which takes place from May 16 to May 22. It is a national enforcement-driven initiative designed to increase public compliance with and awareness of safe driving measures. The enforcement part of the campaign targets impaired driving, lack of occupant restraint use, and unsafe intersection activity.

According to Transport Canada there are about 19 million vehicles in Canada and 21 million drivers navigating 900,000 kilometres of roads. A growing cause of cottage commuting angst is the propensity of motorists to pack heavy, bulky and awkward loads on trailers. A lot of people hauling trailers to the cottage are not very experienced or educated in the art of hauling trailers. One officer has found picnic tables, coolers, luggage, boats, television sets, and valuable antiques on the highway.

“About 33 per cent of road debris is vehicle-related,” said Ontario Transportation Minister Harinder Takhar in a statement.

“Flying vehicle parts are a serious, yet preventable, road safety hazard. This new offence will help us reduce collisions and fatalities on Ontario’s roads.”

Ontario’s Transportation Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005, created new offences for flying vehicle parts that become detached and may cause injury to road users. Examples of flying vehicle parts include mufflers, mirrors, and windshield wipers, tires and car accessories that become detached while on a highway.

Toronto resident Wayne Levin was returning from his family’s Bala Park Island cottage, located about 190 km north of Toronto, a few years back when he witnessed a boat trailer accident.

“[It was] around Innisfil [Ont.]. [The car towing] a boat trailer started to list and swerve until it finally lost control, cut across the highway and rammed the barrier. The boat was completely destroyed…” remembers Mr. Levin.

Car Care Canada, an organization related to the Automotive Industries Association of Canada reminds the cottage crowd that, “[Y]our vehicle is only as safe as the trailer that you attach to it…Ensure your load is secure…[and] tires should be in good shape and properly inflated.”

An alternative to the trailer is the rooftop storage unit. These might be easier to handle than a trailer but motorists sometimes forget to close the unit or secure it properly to the vehicle. One problem is that older rooftop storage units will not fit today’s cars.

Motorists who see a part fly off a car or truck should contact the local police authority and provide information about the vehicle.

In British Columbia in 2005 over the long weekend, three people died and 560 people were injured in approximately 1,600 crashes on that province’s roads. “We are trying to make B.C. roads safer because those kinds of numbers are simply unacceptable,” said Solicitor General John Les in a released statement.

“I want all British Columbians to enjoy a safe long weekend, but I also want them to know that additional police enforcement will be targeting unsafe speed, aggressive driving and impaired driving because those are the top three contributing factors in crashes.”

The Canada Safety Council points out that national personal restraint use surveys show that about 90 percent of motorists in urban areas and 85 percent in rural areas wear seat belts. That means between 10 and 15 percent are unbelted. Almost 40 percent of motor vehicle fatalities were not wearing seat belts at the time of the crash.

According to Transport Canada every percentage point increase in seat belt use results in 23 fewer deaths and 515 fewer injuries each year. Canada’s national objective is 95 percent seat-belt use by all occupants, as well as 95 percent proper use of child restraints by 2010.

Sgt. Paterson encourages all motorists to “leave your anxieties” and ” need for speed ” at home and make sure there is no impairment, such as alcohol, fatigue, or prescription medications. Paterson also advises all motorists to ensure their vehicle is well maintained, especially when towing or caring heavy loads. Other suggestions include knowing your route, minimizing the common distractions, such as cell phones, eating and keeping two hands on the wheel.

“We have all been guilty of making these mistakes. Take a moment when behind the wheel this weekend to reflect and make the personal adjustments to your own behaviour, says Sgt. Paterson.