A moment’s distraction, a lifetime of pain

Distracted driving leaves much collateral damage in its wake

The presence of a uniformed RCMP officer on a Chilliwack transit bus Tuesday turned a few heads.

But his concern wasn’t with anyone on the bus.

His attention was on the outside.

He was part of a co-ordinated effort this month to target drivers who seem unwilling to stay off their cell phones while driving.

With clipboard in hand, the officer braced himself by a window and watched the passing vehicles for offending drivers.

Several marked and unmarked patrol cars were on the road as well. They followed close by, responding to his radio tips, or scouting independently.

The tactic is not new. In the past, police have ridden buses, been hoisted up in bucket lifts, or even disguised as panhandlers at key intersections. The measures demonstrate the growing frustration with distracted driving and concern over the carnage it causes.

More than 80 people will die in B.C. this year in accidents where distracted driving is a contributing factor, statistics show. That’s more than one quarter of all traffic fatalities, and surpasses impaired driving.

But that’s only part of it. For every person killed there are many more who suffer life altering injuries. They are the ones we rarely hear about. Yet long after the accident has been cleared and the media stories have faded, they cope with the injuries and aftermath.

I was thinking about that as the transit bus bumped along Vedder Road Tuesday.

Many years ago I worked in a hospital, covering a variety of jobs. The experience gave me a unique perspective on the 24-hour world inside a hospital.

Much of my time was spent in the OR, mopping floors and transporting patients.

It is a different place. Aside from being physically cut off from the rest of the hospital, connection with patients is brief. They come and go, and their stories rarely have a concluding chapter.

On the bus, I was thinking about one young woman who had been in a car accident. Besides the broken bones and internal injuries, the skin on the back of one hand had been shaved down to the bone. The concern was not only grafting new skin to repair the wound, but also checking the nerves and tendons that make up such a delicate and complex machine.

The surgery on her hand was a success, and I soon forgot the incident.

But weeks later, while on the floors retrieving another patient for surgery, I saw her – still in hospital, still a patient, and still in a wheelchair.

It was a reality check. While we might get on with our lives following news of a major crash, for others the wounds may never fully heal.

That’s why one moment’s distraction can have such a profound effect. An innocent reply to an annoying text can have consequences that alter lives forever.

That message still has trouble getting through. As our bus rumbled along Vedder, we passed at least two vehicles pulled over by our accompanying patrol cars.

The drivers could be facing fines of at least $368.

But that’s small change compared to the years lost to rehabilitation, reconstructive surgery and therapy necessitated by one simple and stupid mistake.

Greg Knill is editor of the Chilliwack Progress

Just Posted

B.C. to move salmon farms out of coastal migration route

Broughton Archipelago plan set to start in spring of 2019

City of Campbell River transit to get some infrastructure help next year

Hint: It’s a bus pullout on Dogwood at Carihi and doubling the rate of bus shelter installation

Stranded B.C. trucker writes final wishes before being rescued 3 days later

‘I was just praying someone would come along’

Campbell River School District calls for report on buses and seat-belts

Parents have questions following expose on research around buses and safety

New wind warning for most of Vancouver Island

Forecasters are calling for strong winds up to 90km/h for some areas

REPLAY: B.C’s best video this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at the replay-worth highlights from this week across the province

Canucks score 3 power-play goals in 4-2 win over Oilers

Vancouver sniper Boeser has 6 goals in last 5 games

Microscopic parasite found in Prince Rupert water affecting thousands

More than 12,000 residents affected by the boil water advisory issued Dec. 14

Trudeau lashes out at Conservatives over migration “misinformation”

Warning against the “dangers of populism,” Trudeau says using immigration as a wedge political issue puts Canada’s future at risk.

B.C. hockey coach creates ‘gear library’ to remove cost barrier of sport

Todd Hickling gathered donations and used gear to remove the cost barrier for kids to play hockey.

Canada’s ambassador meets with second detainee in China

Global Affairs says John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to China, met with Spavor Sunday

‘They’re coming:’ Flying cars may appear in urban skies by 2023

Air taxis will number 15,000 and become a global market worth $32 billion by 2035

B.C. VIEWS: Andrew Wilkinson on taxes, ICBC and union changes

Opposition leader sees unpredictable year ahead in 2019

5 tips for self-care, mental wellness this holiday season

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions urging British Columbians to prioritize self care through festive season

Most Read