Many of us make New Year’s resolutions over the holidays in the hopes of making a change that will improve an aspect of our lives or the lives of our loved ones. Some of our most common resolutions are to adopt a healthier lifestyle, spend more time with our family, learn something new, and/or become a more positive person. Unfortunately, research shows that most Canadians who make New Year's resolutions are unable to keep them. This likely isn't surprising to those of us who, with the best of intentions, resolved, in past years, to go to the gym regularly or eliminate an unhealthy habit in the New Year.
Given that a primary cause of injury in Ontario is motor vehicle accidents, by making a ‘safe driving’ resolution and keeping it, we can facilitate a change that may have the greatest impact on the safety of our loved ones and for other road users. While many people believe they are already 'safe drivers' in every definition of the term, current statistics on the number of Canadians who use their cell phones while driving or otherwise take their attention from the road, suggest that most of us have room for improvement. Here a few suggestions to help us succeed.
1. Resolve to always wear your seatbelt, both as a driver and passenger – Based on a 2014 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than half of teens and adults who died in crashes were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident. The facts are clear – wearing a seatbelt saves your life.
2. Resolve to always drive sober – While numerous efforts continue to be made to discourage individuals from driving while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, unfortunately, impaired driving continues to be a common occurrence. According to Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), there were 6,600 charges of impaired driving in Ontario last year and 40 road fatalities related to drugs or alcohol. This year, make a resolution to choose an alternative to driving when you attend an event that involves drinking, and always drive sober. This includes not driving when under the influence of drugs, including prescription drugs, that may undermine your ability to drive.
3. Resolve to drive without distractions – An August 2016 report by the OPP revealed that distracted driving contributed to twice as many road fatalities in Ontario as impaired driving. This statistic is alarming. Distracted driving is most often linked to the prevalent use of cellphones to text or talk while driving, but also includes everything from listening to music too loudly, talking to passengers rather than focusing on the road, eating, fiddling with the car radio and any other activity that takes a driver’s focus away from the road. This year, resolve to be alert and attentive at all times while driving.
4. Resolve to avoid speeding – Like impaired driving and distracted driving, speeding continues to major factor in most road accidents. This year, resolve to slow down and obey all speed limits. Plan ahead and give yourself enough time to get where you need to go so you’re not rushing and as a result, feel the need to speed.
5. Resolve to always obey traffic signs and signals – Traffic signs and signals exist to ensure the safety of motorists and all other roads users. This year, resolve to always follow traffic signs and signals correctly.
6. Resolve to always yield and/or move over for emergency vehicles – You must yield and/or move over for emergency vehicles when their sirens and lights are on. Failure to do so is a crime that is punishable by fines and even jail time. Emergency vehicles save lives and not yielding or moving over for them can mean the difference between life and death for a person in need. So this year, resolve to always yield and/or move over for emergency vehicles.
7. Resolve to use car signals and headlights properly – Improper use of your car signals and headlights can be confusing for other motorists and potentially lead to accidents. Make a resolution this year to always pay attention to your signals and headlights and ensure they are always functioning as they should be.
8. Resolve to always be aware and considerate of pedestrians and cyclists – A 2016 report by the Toronto police noted that between June and September of that year, 542 pedestrians and 541 bikers were hit by cars (The Toronto Star, Sep 23, 2016). Pedestrian and cyclist safety continue to be a serious concern in Ontario and this year, resolve to not be part of the problem by ensuring that you are always on the lookout for, and yield appropriately to pedestrians and cyclists.
9. Resolve to drive with a relaxed and positive attitude – A 2015 study published by State Farm Canada reported a troubling statistic that one out of three Canadians experiences some manner of road rage every month. According to the study, the most common triggers for road rage include tailgating, other drivers being distracted and being cut off. Road rage is a very serious issue that has led to injury and even death for some. This year, resolve to always drive with a calm, relaxed and courteous attitude.
10. Resolve to avoid driving while drowsy and/or fatigued – A recent American Automobile Association (AAA) study found that driving while drowsy and/or fatigued is comparable to driving drunk (CBC News, Dec 6, 2016). According to AAA, missing just two to three hours of sleep can quadruple one’s risk of getting into an accident. Drowsy driving has increasingly been a major factor in many road accidents and fatalities in Ontario. This year, resolve to always get enough rest to ensure you are fully alert every time you get behind the wheel.
11. Resolve to maintain your vehicle properly – Imagine getting on a plane that has not been serviced, had the oil or engine checked, etc. The fact is, we likely wouldn’t. Cars, motorcycles and trucks must be properly maintained because failure to do so may leave you stranded or cause a collision. This year, resolve to get your car serviced regularly, make any necessary changes depending on the weather, such as getting snow tires before winter starts and of course make sure your vehicle is properly insured.
Every time we get behind the wheel, we have a responsibility to ourselves, our passengers, fellow motorists and all other road users to remain alert, drive safely and follow the driving laws.
The Injury Lawyers of Ontario wishes all Ontarians a safe and happy 2017!
Every time we get behind the wheel, we have a responsibility to ourselves, our passengers, fellow motorists and all other road users, to remain alert, drive safely and follow Ontario driving laws. The Injury Lawyers of Ontario wishes all Ontarians a safe and happy 2017!