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Preventing preventable deaths

Twelve fatalities in nine months on Pemberton roads has first responders speaking out



When Corporal Paul Vadik talks about this year’s high incidence of fatal motor vehicle accidents in the Pemberton Valley, one specific word resonates: “preventable.” Of this year’s nine single vehicle fatal accidents, which resulted in the deaths of 12 people, only two were attributed to driver error.

“There are many things we can’t prevent,” says the RCMP officer. “Traffic safety, in all its many dynamics, is the one thing where, but for the human condition, prevention is not only available to us, it is absolutely in our control.”

After the most recent spate of accidents in September, the corporal joined other “first responders” to form the Pemberton/Mount Currie Alcohol/Speed Stewardship Working Group. Representatives from Emergency Services, B.C. Ambulance Service, the Pemberton fire department, administrators from the Village of Pemberton (VOP) and Mount Currie Band joined RCMP to discuss the issue and come up with possible solutions.

From that initial meeting an approach has emerged which combines enforcement, education and engagement.

Cpl. Vadik sees the essential first step to implementing this strategy as increasing awareness and shifting perceptions about the issue of speed and alcohol-related traffic incidents.

The officer sees the term “traffic accident” as a bit of misnomer.

“In actual fact, over 80 per cent of all vehicle crashes are a caused occurrence, not an accident at all. Expert collision reconstruction analysis invariably discloses such causal factors as driver error and other human induced conditions: speeding; disobeying posted highway signs and signals; distractions; not adjusting to traffic and weather conditions; racing; and, of course, the all too frequent alcohol and drug induced impairment,” he says.

Upon visiting his office, it becomes immediately apparent how seriously the corporal takes the issue of traffic safety. Within a few minutes of our interview, he reaches into his desk and produces a hole-punched document, the unmistakable thick and thin print of typewriter type covering the warn piece of paper. It’s an editorial from The Rosetown Eagle , a rural Saskatchewan weekly. Titled “An Editor and An Accident”, the piece details then editor John Pinckney’s experience of coming upon the aftermath of a single vehicle accident that resulted in four fatalities, effectively wiping out the surviving driver’s family.

“We did see a man kneel bleeding over his wife, unable to understand that she could not speak to him — unable to grasp that she would never speak again.