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Every new year means new resolutions. Whether it’s losing weight, saving money, or spending more time with loved ones, it’s good to start the year with new goals.
But if you’re tired of the old clichéd goals or don’t want to have to fight the January lineups at the gym, we have seven ideas that can make for a safer new you in 2017.
1. No cellphone use while driving.
For the first time in decades, driving fatalities increased in 2016 and texting and driving was the main culprit. No message is more important than someone’s life. So let’s all vow to put those phones away while behind the wheel.
2. End all other driving distractions.
Of course, texting and cellphone use is one of the most dangerous driving habits on today’s roads but they’re not the only distractions causing us to crash. Whether it’s eating while driving, looking at you in the rear-view mirror, or fiddling too much with stereo or climate controls, there are too many things to distract our attention from the road. And no matter what you think, driving requires all your concentration.
3. Stop texting while walking.
Cellphones aren’t just a problem on the roads. They have become a rising problem on our sidewalks – someone out for a walk, focused on a text or a tweet and not paying attention to their surroundings. That’s the moment when they trip on a curb, collide with another pedestrian, or worse, step into moving traffic.
4. No driving while impaired.
We’ve known for decades the devastation caused by impaired driving, and yet people still do it. A 2016 study even ranked Canada as the worst offender in the industrialized world for drunk-driving fatalities. If you drink, don’t drive.
5. Be mindful of cyclists.
Whether you’re in a luxury SUV or a cute little microcar, you still have to be extra cautious when driving near and around cyclists. Always give them enough room, make eye contact, and as we’ve learned from the Dutch this year, be especially careful when opening the door into cycling lanes.
6. Be a safer cyclist.
There are more and more Vancouverites switching to bikes to get around the city. It’s a healthy and environmental-friendly way to get about, but safety must be a top priority. Our city’s protected bike lanes are a great addition, but you still have to follow the rules and take precautions before and during your ride.
7. Get ready for a disaster.
OK, some people thought 2016 was a disaster on its own, but the truth is, not many of us are prepared for a real emergency. Living along a fault line as we do, a serious earthquake would be mayhem for residents of the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. And the first 72 hours are the most critical. So resolve to get your plan and kit together.
But of course, we’ll all hope that 2017 is a safe, happy, and joyful year for everyone.
Winter is here and that means making some changes and plans for how you tackle the roads. One little snowflake is so delicate, but a billion of them at once can be deadly. Same is true with raindrops.
It may be rare to find ice and snow on streets in the Lower Mainland, but it does happen. Even wet streets can be dangerous, and if the temperature drops, it can turn into a virtual skating rink. Statistics from ICBC and police reports in BC show twice as many car crashes in December than October.
So gear up and get ready for winter driving.
Check the conditions
Whether you’re hitting the Sea to Sky highway or want to avoid an accident on the Coquihalla, check your local forecast and driving conditions before hitting the road. DriveBC offers an excellent resource with frequent updates for highway conditions across the province.
Prepare for the drive
Give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. Traffic slows during bad weather and you don’t want to feel rushed or pressured in such conditions. Plan your route and let others know where you are going and when you expect to arrive and return. If you run into problems, pull over and let them know you’ll be delayed. Keep a fully charged cell phone with you for communicating and emergencies, but NEVER use it while you are driving.
Keep it clean
Make sure you keep the windshield and headlights and taillights clear so you can see and be seen. But you should also clear off ice and snow from the roof, trunk, wheel wells, and bumpers. It’s dangerous for others to have chunks of ice and snow flying at them at high speed.
Make sure you have plenty of windshield fluid and your wipers are working properly. Snowy, slushy, and wet roads are dirty roads and that means frequent use of both. And just for good measure, give all lights and reflectors a squeegee every now and then, especially before heading out. They can quickly get covered in dirt.
Winter driving takes all of your attention. So stay focused. Never drive if you are feeling tired or have had alcohol. And of course, keep your eyes on the road. No playing with phones or other distractions like eating, fiddling with the car stereo, or grooming. Get your passengers to help you out by watching for hazards, taking care of any temperature or stereo controls, and making sure you stay alert.
Pack a kit
A winter survival kit for your car is a great help to have on hand just in case you need it. The Canadian Automobile Association recommends keeping the following items in your car:
You must have the right tires for the road. Many highways in BC require you use winter tires or chains between October 1 and March 31. Check here for more details on winter tire needs.
If you or someone you know has suffered an injury as a result of a car crash, motor vehicle accident, or someone’s negligent winter driving, you have rights. Contact us today to discuss how our team can help you get on the path to recovery.
All it takes is one blow to the head and your life can be changed forever. Concussions are becoming all too common, especially among young people. And new research is showing that the consequences of just one concussion can have long-term effects on your mental, intellectual, and physical abilities.
Scientists from universities in the US, the UK, and Sweden collaborated on the study. Looking at a set of Swedish people who had suffered a head injury before age 25, they made some startling discoveries.
The first finding is economic in nature. Those who had experienced just one concussion or mild traumatic brain injury in their youth were much more likely to be receiving disability payments as an adult. They were also less likely to have finished high school or to have moved on to higher education or training.
The group also experienced more health problems. They were more likely to seek help for mental health issues, they suffered more lingering physical problems, and were more likely to die early in life. The situation was worse for a concussion after the age of 15 – an important time in human development when the brain is still growing.
That’s also an age when a lot of kids are heavily involved in sports with a higher risk of head injury, such as hockey, soccer, rugby, and football. All the more reason to make sure your kids are playing safe and wearing protective gear. And if they do get hurt, it’s why you should pull them out of play. Their future health and success is far more important than a high school trophy.
Tis the season for stringing up lights, putting out plastic reindeer, and dousing trees with tinsel. In the rush of getting everything together, we can sometimes forget about safety. Faulty lights or tinder-dry trees are a recipe for holiday disaster. Being safety-minded never goes out of season.
Here are a few things to remember when decorating your home for the holidays.
Light up the night
Strings of colourful lights are a hallmark of the season, but they can also create serious hazards. If you are pulling old lights out of storage, check for any frayed or exposed wires first and toss them if you find any damage. If you are buying new lights, most are now LED. They’re easier on the power bill and don’t get as hot as traditional incandescent lights, but don’t connect the two – they weren’t designed to go together.
Whether they’re old or new, always make sure to use the right lights in the right place. Indoor lights were not made for cold or rainy weather and should never be used outside. Outdoor lights are safe to use indoors.
And if you feel you can’t celebrate the holiday without a roaring fire or candlelight, just make sure to be fire-safe. Use sturdy and proper candle holders, never use real candles on a tree, keep all flames a safe distance from children or pets, and never leave any fire unattended. One spark or careless flicker can cause enormous damage.
The right connection
Getting lit for the season takes a home-made style of electrical engineering. Always do so safely. Make sure all lights and cords are fully and securely plugged into the outlet, and never overload the outlet. A loose connection can cause sparks or an electrical shock.
If you use an extension cord, make sure it is the right one for the job. Using an indoor cord for your outdoor decorations is a bad idea. And stringing together several lengths of shorter cords to make one longer cord is a fire hazard. Check for any exposed wires and never run extension cords under carpets or out of windows or doorways where they can be pinched and frayed.
If you’re putting up a tree, the choice is always between real or fake. If you opt for a natural tree, be extra cautious about your lights, cords, and outlets as real trees are a real fire hazard. Keep your tree well watered. Most artificial trees are made to be fire resistant and some come with lights already installed. They’re less of a worry, but still, check for any damage. And finally, whether you’re decking the halls or the tree, use a sturdy ladder to get to those higher places. You don’t need a fall to crash your festivities.
Compared to decades ago, our roads and highways are safer. We’ve added more safety features to our cars, build them to be more crash-proof, and have safer infrastructure. The majority of people are wearing their seatbelts and the message about not drinking and driving has been gaining traction.
But then the cellphone came along and we messed it all up. Those pocket-sized bundles of distraction are always beeping, pinging, dinging, and ringing and we just can’t seem to put them down. And the addiction is killing us.
In the United States, 2016 proved to be a strange year and not just for the reason you think. For the first time in 50 years, the highway fatality rate increased, jumping by just over 10% in the first six months of the year when compared to 2015. Much of the blame can be put on distracted drivers.
Whether its texting, checking email, playing with an app, or posting to social media, using your phone while driving is a seriously bad habit with deadly consequences. We’re not immune to the problem here in Canada. Last June, the BC government upped the fines for drivers caught using a handheld mobile device while driving. In the four months since, traffic accidents increased by almost 2%. And it can happen in the blink of an eye.
What can you do? Well first thing is never use your phone while driving. If you must have a phone conversation, use a hands free device. Many of today’s new cars come equipped with this technology. Better yet, pull over and safely out of the way of traffic to talk, or check and respond to messages. And if you have kids, make sure they’re onside in the battle against distracted driving – absolutely no texting while driving! Whatever it is, it can wait. Because no message, game, or app is ever worth risking anyone’s life.
Like an army of zombies left over from an apocalypse or a cheesy horror flick, you see them everywhere – people walking around, absorbed in their mobile phones. They’re texting or checking social media but they’re not paying attention to where they are going.
Tripping on a curb or bumping into a pole might amuse onlookers, but there are real dangers. If one of these distracted walkers wanders into traffic or steps in front of a moving car they risk serious injury or even death.
These zombies now have a name: ‘petextrians’. Pedestrian texters who are more focused on their screens then they are on the world around them. But catching a Pokemon or texting an emoji in the wrong place at the wrong time can be deadly.
A handful of cities across Canada want to curb distracted walking by putting a ban on using a handheld cell phone in busy pedestrian areas like a crosswalk or sidewalk. Last July, Toronto City Council passed a motion to put a ban on using mobile devices “while on any travelled portion of a roadway.” Calgary is looking at similar rules and two city councillors in Vancouver are promoting the idea here.
A recent survey shows that two-thirds of Canadians think this is a good idea. Another study on pedestrian accidents shows a 350% increase between 2004 and 2010 in pedestrians being killed while using their cellphone.
So how do you avoid becoming a petextrian? A few simple steps can save you. If you are walking and using your phone, step to the side and get out of the way of others. Go up against a wall or a building to avoid crashing into someone. And if you’re in an area where there are moving cars, like a crosswalk or parking lot, simply put your phone away. No texting or tweeting in these areas! Because if you’re looking at your phone, you’re not going see what’s coming at you.
Recently, our own Aimee King did something extraordinary. She jetted off to Chicago and completed her first marathon. Pounding the pavement for 42 kilometers (or 26 miles) isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time, but it certainly is a life challenge that many people dream of tackling.
So, why do it? We asked Aimee about her motivations, her challenges, and some of the lessons she learned along the way.
SV: Aimee, congratulations on your run. Why did you decide to run a marathon?
AK: I did it because I wasn’t sure if I could do it and was intimidated by the idea of it. Training was very time consuming. I started running home from work during the week and then did the longer runs on the weekend. The weekend runs were very long, lasting two to three hours as I got closer to the marathon.
SV: Why and how did you start out running?
AK: I found running very peaceful. Running is just a way to be alone with my thoughts. I also liked the simplicity of it. All you need is a pair of shoes. And there are so many great running spots in Vancouver.
SV: And running the marathon itself?
AK: The actual marathon was really tough. Between the 35 and 40 mark, I wanted to give up because my legs were in a lot of pain. I wanted more than anything to just stop and sit at the sidewalk.
SV: Any life lessons from this experience?
AK: What I have learned from this whole process is that we are all really capable of much more than what we think we can do. We just have to push ourselves to get past what we think our limitations are.
SV: Do you have any tips for other people thinking about running a marathon?
AK: I’m by no means an expert – far from it and I’m a slow runner too – but there are some tips I can share.
If you want to do it, then sign up for one. Don’t make excuses. During the marathon, there were the fast runners, who of course I aspired to be, but what I found really inspirational were the people who you would look at and not think they could run the whole distance – people who were much older, people with disabilities, people with many more excuses not to be running a marathon than I had.
Once you’ve made that decision, look online to find a training schedule and stick to it. But do start out slow – runners are prone to injury – you need to build the distance slowly. Then keep your eye on the goal and think positive. If you tell yourself you can do it, it will happen.
Anyone who has ever biked along a row of parked cars has one serious dread – crashing into an opening car door. Getting ‘doored’ is bad news for both the cyclist and the driver. But one simple change in the driver’s behaviour can dramatically cut the risk of this happening.
It’s being called the ‘Dutch Reach’ due to the fact that it has been a regular move taught to drivers in the Netherlands for decades. The Dutch have an enormous cycling culture, so it should be no surprise they’d be the ones to introduce it to the world.
The move is really quite simple. After parking your car, instead of using your door-side (left) arm, your reach over with your other (right) arm to open the door. This shift in position causes you to naturally look back and see whether or not there are cyclists coming up behind you.
The statistics for Vancouver show that 1 in 7 bike crashes in the city are caused by getting ‘doored’, as many as two every week. Getting doored can result in serious injury or death to the cyclist. All it takes is a little dose of the Dutch Reach to eliminate getting doored.
Bears, elk, moose, deer – big wildlife is a reality across a country as large and as forested as Canada. Our highways cut across their habitat, resulting in thousands of crashes each year. In fact, some statistics show that there are 4 to 8 car crashes in Canada every hour involving a large animal. You can reduce your risk of hitting a deer or moose with a bit of information and planning.
Know where and when
Wildlife vehicle collisions are most likely to occur where there is a nearby water source, like a creek, swamp, or drainage ditch. Animals tend to hang about where they can easily forage for food. Pay attention on long, straight stretches of road. Nearly half of all collisions with wildlife in happen between 7:00 pm and midnight when visibility is poor.
On the road
When you’re behind the wheel, there are a few things you can do to minimize the risk of an animal collision:
Off the road
Before you even get in your car, one of the most important things you can do ahead of time is keep your vehicle well maintained. Make sure your lights are clear of dirt and working properly, that your windshield and windows are clean, that your brakes are functioning, and that your horn works. You might need them all if an animal darts in front of you.
Know your wildlife
Get to know some of the behaviours and physical traits of animals you may encounter along the road. For example, deer often travel in herds, so if you see one, there may be others. Younger animals tend to stick close to a parent. And be extra cautious about moose – their height and weight is particularly dangerous in a collision. You can learn more about BC wildlife and their behaviours here.