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

Theft at Mt. Timothy latest challenge for local ski hill

Society president Mike Kidston still hoping local politicians will support referendum on funding

Age-Friendly Society hosting stress and anxiety presentation in 100 Mile House

Psychologist Kristin Buhr will be teaching strategies to deal with stress and anxiety

A decrease in locally written letters to the editor is significant

The weekly editorial for the 100 Mile Free Press

A case for the Penguins

A weekly sports column by the 100 Mile Free Press

Festival of the Arts to start April 23

“People should expect to hear a lot of young talent”

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

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

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Dix says B.C. remains focused on fighting youth overdoses in wake of teen’s death

Elliot Eurchuk’s parents say he died at his Oak Bay home after taking street drugs

Final week for ALR input

Public consultation process closes April 30

‘When everybody leaves: Counselling key to help Humboldt move on after bus crash

Dealing with life after a tragedy can be the worst part following a loss

Half-naked shooter guns down four, runs away in Nashville Waffle House shooting

Nashville police say they are looking for Travis Reinking in connection with the shooting

Child’s body found in river downstream from where boy went missing during flood

Three-year-old Kaden Young was swept out of his mother’s arms in February

B.C. VIEWS: Eliminating efficiency for farm workers

Don’t worry, NDP says, the B.C. economy’s booming

B.C. student makes short-list for autism advocacy award

Brody Butts honoured for his role as a mentor and self-advocate

Most Read