Whether it’s a short or a long trip, being a passenger in a car can leave you a bit restless. Thinking about kicking back and putting your feet up on the dashboard? There’s only one word of advice for that thought: don’t!

Audra Tatum from Georgia thought nothing of it. That was before the crash that landed her in the hospital with serious injuries. She now has six screws and a metal rod in her leg. Bethany Benson of Ontario also had a similar incident. It left her with 100 stitches, multiple injuries to her legs and face, and many other serious problems.

Both women were passengers in a car and decided to stretch out a bit, putting their feet up on the dash. That was a big mistake. While they didn’t expect the crashes that lead to their injuries, the real surprise was what hurt them the most – the airbag.

Upon impact, an airbag instantly flies out of the dash, inflating at a speed of just over 300 km/h. That’s a bit faster than the speed of a jumbo jet at takeoff. With feet and legs pressed against, the force comes out with all that fury, throwing the limbs back toward the body. For Audra and Bethany, it was a devastating and life-changing blow.

Airbags are designed to protect properly seated and buckled-up bodies from slamming into the dash and windshield. They have to open faster than your body flings forward. Putting legs, feet, or anything else up against the dash blocks the airbag hatch. And when that flies open, your own body parts are like shrapnel in an explosion.

So never put your feet on the dash! If you are a tired or restless passenger on a long haul, keep your legs under the dash, move to the back seat, or ask the driver to stop for a stretch break.

https://youtu.be/pcnMvc0zbiE

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We live in a world of cameras, found on everything from cellphones to elevators. So what about adding one to your car? Dashboard cameras are becoming more common in Canada and there are some very practical reasons to get one.

Safely mounted to your vehicle’s dashboard, these cameras record the view through your windshield. Law enforcement officers have used them for years and they have been helpful in many legal cases in both protecting the public and prosecuting offenders.

A quick search on YouTube will show countless dashcam videos from Russia. Their popularity stems from insurance, security, and policing issues in that country. But what about here in Canada? Should you buy a dashcam for your car?

One really good use for dashcams is recording car crashes. No one ever wants to experience one, but they do happen and in that moment of fear and reflex, it can be difficult to recall what happened. Eyewitnesses and accident victims may remember conflicting details or nothing at all. Enter the dashcam with its video recording of the crash.

There are a few legal and privacy issues to consider with using a dashcam (or any recording device for that matter). But under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), recording in public is permitted and nearly all roadways in Canada are considered public property.

Recording on private property can be sticky and if you are at an international border crossing, its best to switch the camera off. Border agents can deny you entry if they find you recording their questioning. And of course, a dashcam is an electronic device, so if you’re driving, don’t fiddle around with it – that can count as distracted driving and can get you a hefty fine or worse.

And of course, these cameras aren’t just for drivers. Many cyclists and motorcyclists are attaching cameras to the helmets and bikes to capture any potential danger or accident.

In our experience in working with accident and injury victims, we’re finding more and more that video footage is proving invaluable in showing what happened in a crash and who was at fault. You may never need it, but for a small investment, a properly mounted and properly used camera can have a big impact on determining the outcome of an accident claim.

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One horrible lesson we’ve learned with the advance of cellular and smartphone technology is that distracted driving kills. But still, people continue to be lured by the bings and rings of their phones. That’s why in 2010, BC implemented a set of new regulations to the Motor Vehicle Act that banned the use of hand-held electronic devices while driving.

That means no talking on hand-held devices, no texting, no searching Google, no posting to social media, not even touching your phone or using it while stopped at a red light. It is a complete ban on hand-held devices and the list of what isn’t permitted is extensive (check the link for a helpful look at what the law says you can and cannot use while driving).

Unfortunately, our distracted driving problem hasn’t gone away. Last June, the government increased fines and penalties, with multiple offenders facing an escalating level of fines – up to thousands of dollars! And yes, touching your phone while driving is an offence, including when you’re stopped at a red light.

One North Vancouver man found that out when he was ticketed for plugging in his phone while stopped at a red light. He challenged the ticket (and the law itself) all the way to the BC Supreme Court. In her decision, Justice Maisonville ruled against the North Vancouver resident stating, “it’s the handling of the device, and the use, not whether the device was capable of transmitting or receiving, that is the issue before the court.”

The law is tough, some may even say harsh, but the deadly reality is distracted drivers are leaving a path of carnage and tears along our roadways. BC’s laws are some of the strictest in North America and now backed by this Supreme Court ruling, they’ll continue to do their part to curb distracted driving. Now the challenge is for all of us to our part. When driving, leave your phone alone!

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Spring is here and for motorcycle fans, it’s time to head out on the highway and look for adventure. But no biker wants a collision to ruin the fun. That’s why May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. As bikers get set to kick start the season, it’s a good time for all of us to remember to share the road and think about motorcycle safety.

What can you do? Whether you’re revving up the bike or driving in your car, it’s everyone’s responsibility to put safety first.

If you’re on a motorbike, follow the rules of the road. Maintain a safe speed, don’t zig zag through traffic, and make sure to use your turn signals as necessary. Before you even hit the trail, take a few precautions. Make sure your bike is well maintained and in working order (including the tires) and dirt free, especially on lights and signals. And make sure to wear a helmet and protective gear. Helmets are the law in BC for both motorcyclists and passengers, but they can go a long way in helping to keep you safe in the event of a crash.

If you’re in a motor vehicle, always be alert to your surroundings. Motorbikes are smaller than cars and can be harder to see than others sharing the road with you. Remember to check your blind spots, signal before turning or switching lanes, and give bikers enough room to get around or make sudden stops. They may be small, but they’re still going at the same speed as the rest of the traffic.

No matter what you’re driving or riding, never ever drive impaired and leave your phone alone. Both slow your reaction time and decrease your ability to make last second judgments and adjustments.

And finally, take the Motorcycle Safety Pledge. The Motorcyclists Confederation of Canada wants everyone on the road to make motorcycle safety a priority not just in May but every day. Take the pledge and then share it on social media using #MotorcycleSafetyPledge to show your support on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

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Snapchat, HipChat, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, good ol’ texting – we get it! There’s an endless array of ingenious apps out there to let people connect and communicate from their smartphones and your kids are probably using most of them. But one place where smart apps are just plain stupid? When you’re behind the wheel of a car.

As a parent, you need to talk to your kids about the dangers of distracted driving. No message, no app, no cute cat meme is ever worth losing your focus or losing your life. Set the example and leave your phone alone while driving.

Jacy Good from Pennsylvania knows all too well the consequences of drivers distracted by their mobile devices. In 2008, her parents were killed in a horrific crash caused by a teenager who was focused on his phone and not his driving. Since that horrible day, she’s been sharing her story with young drivers hoping to get the message across – there’s more on the line than whatever message is on your phone.

On her last day of college, Jacy’s parents were driving her home when suddenly at an intersection, a milk truck slammed right into their car trying to avoid an oncoming car driven by a teen talking on his phone. In a split-second, Jacy’s parents were gone and Jacy herself was seriously injured. Broken bones, surgeries, a brain injury, and a lengthy recovery later, she now shares her story hoping that it will deter drivers from picking up their phone while driving.

The story didn’t just end there. While Jacy had to recover from a traumatic brain injury and can’t use one of her arms or the lower part of a leg, there was another victim that day. The truck driver was so traumatized by the event that he couldn’t bring himself to ever drive again. His life spiraled out of control and into a toxic soup of anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and family problems eventually leading to his suicide. All that from one kid on a cellphone.

Sadly, Jacy’s story has become all too common. But she wants it to be a warning to kids and parents: “I want people to stop killing each other. It’s in your hands to make this world, to make our roads a little bit better place to be.”

So before you hand over the car keys to your teen driver remember Jacy’s story and share it with your kids: focus on driving and absolutely no use of devices while behind the wheel of a car. Nothing on your phone is ever more important than that single message.

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Texting and driving is a world-wide problem and it’s killing us. Our devices have gotten smarter, but what about people? Too many of us continue to text while driving and the results are senseless and tragic.

You don’t mess with Texas, and as one driver in the Lone Star State learned the hard way you also don’t mess with texting and driving. This spring, a 20 year-old man in a pickup truck was driving through a rural part of the state. His driving was erratic and caused others on the road to worry. Then suddenly their fears were confirmed — he crashed into a church van. He survived but thirteen people in the van were killed.

How did such a tragedy unfold so quickly and with such deadly consequences? “I’m sorry. I was texting,” the young man was heard to say at the site of the crash. Thirteen souls wiped from the Earth because one man just couldn’t put his phone down. Legislation is working its way through the state house, but Texas currently doesn’t have rules against texting while driving. Forty-six other states do.

US texting driving bans by state

 

Canadian regulations are of course different. Nunavut is the only jurisdiction with no such rules on the books – every other province and territory has a ban and penalties. Here in BC, using an electronic device while driving has been banned since 2010. If you’re using a hand-held electronic device while driving, there’s an immediate first-time fine of $368 and four penalty points – an additional $175. That text will cost you $543 and will go up and up each time you do it. Ten offences in a year in BC can add up to over $18,000 in penalties!

Some hands-free devices are permitted while driving in British Columbia, including audio and navigation systems. A list of these, with details, is available here. But if you have a red “L” or a green “N” on the back of your BC licensed car, no devices are allowed at all, including hands-free technology.

While bans and fines have an impact on some people’s decision to leave their phones alone while driving, more needs to be done to change attitudes and behaviours. Take the pledge to never text while driving, lock up your devices while behind the wheel, and make sure your loved ones are on the same page. If not? Well, as one man and a community in Texas found out recently, there’s a much harsher impact on lives than any fine or point deduction – leave the phone alone.

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Rain, rain, go away – right? But this is British Columbia, so we live with it. To make our lives safer and better when our rain forest cities live up to their “Wet Coast” reputation, approaching rainy roadways takes a different skillset than the during the drier days of summer.

Here are a few things to do when the when driving in the rain.

Check your car

Rain hampers visibility and on the road, you need to see and be seen. This means clearing dirt and debris from headlights and tail lamps and seeing that all lights are working. Also make sure your wipers function properly and that you have topped up the washer fluid. Check to see your tires are inflated properly and that there are no problems with the brakes.

Check your speed

Once you are on the road, take it slow. Wet roads are slippery roads and excessive (or even normal) speeds are dangerous. Rain will bring out oil and gas residue in the pavement and that adds a layer of slickness. Braking takes longer when you speed. Add a slippery surface and you’re adding more to your braking time.

Adjust your driving

Aside from a safe speed, rain requires a few other changes to the way you drive. Leave plenty of room for sudden stops, and no tailgating. Watch for larger vehicles like trucks and buses. Give them plenty of room and keep an eye out for when they’re travelling through puddles. An 18-wheeler plowing through water can blind you as it hits your windshield.

Handling hydroplaning

Hydroplaning can be one of the scariest experiences on a rain-soaked road. In an instant, you can feel like the car has taken on a mind of its own. But if you do hydroplane, don’t panic. You’re still in control. Stay calm, focus on where you want the car to go, ease off the gas and ease on the brakes to adjust speed (don’t slam either pedal!), and steer yourself away from the water.

Into each life a little rain must fall. But just a few minutes of preparation, a few adjustments to your regular habits, and a calm attitude will help you make it through the storm and back home safely.

https://youtu.be/vGVEdeqjSLE

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Marc Garneau was the first Canadian in space, but now as the federal Minister of Transport, he’s blasting off again – this time against distracted driving in this country. Just recently, Garneau came out in support of creating a consistent set of rules and penalties for distracted driving from coast to coast, especially when it comes to using electronic devices while driving.

As it stands, distracted driving laws are a provincial and territorial matter and each has different rules and different ways of enforcing their laws. Here in BC, we have some of the toughest – a $543 fine for a first time offender. Up in Nunavut, there’s currently no law. All other provinces and territories have some form of fine and demerit system in place.

If you look at car crashes across Canada in 2014, 20% of fatalities involved some form of distracted driving, and nearly a third of the people injured in a crash were the victim of a distracted driver. You don’t even have to look at the statistics to know this is a problem – stand at any street corner and watch the traffic go by and you’ll see more than a few heads turned away from the road. The potential for a horrific crash is there with every text, tweet, and swipe.

Ottawa is deeply concerned, but it isn’t completely a federal matter. That’s why Garneau has written to all provincial and territorial transport ministers, expressing a desire for “all jurisdictions to consider adopting measures which are both stricter in terms of their impact but also uniform across the country.”

If you are caught texting and driving you could even be charged with a criminal offence under the  Criminal Code of Canada. A conviction for dangerous driving could result in a large fine, jail time, and a criminal record. The maximum jail time is five years for dangerous driving, 10 years for dangerous driving causing bodily harm, and 14 years for dangerous driving causing death.

With distracted drivers injuring and killing thousands each year, Garneau has decided it is time to come back down to earth and take a hard look at introducing more severe civil consequences for distracted driving.

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There’s something you do all the time and it’s costing you time, money, and energy – as well as putting you in harm’s way. Left turns! They’re more trouble than you think and that’s why UPS drivers avoid them as much as possible.

UPS knows a thing or two about driving. Every day, they deliver millions of packages to people all over the world. And to get that delivery to your door in the most efficient and safest way they can, their drivers in North America follow one simple rule when on the road – avoid left turns.

It may seem odd, but it has a big impact. Left turns can take longer, often wasting gas and time to get through a busy intersection. They also require turning through oncoming traffic, increasing the risk of a crash.

For UPS, an accident or a traffic snag puts them behind schedule, burns extra fuel, and puts their drivers and others at risk. While you’re not making the large number of stops a delivery driver does, nor do you have a fleet of thousands of vehicles, reducing your risk of an accident is a good reason to avoid left turns in areas with heavy traffic.

Statistics tell us left turns account for 50% of accidents. Right turns account for only 6%. Pedestrians are three times more likely to be struck by a driver turning left than in other circumstances.

So when you’re making a trip through a busy part of town, think about your route before you get there. Plot out the safest way to avoid left turns. And just like a UPS package, you’ll be delivered to your destination safe and on time.

https://youtu.be/Sfo4IooBsRc

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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.

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