Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Monday, July 15 2019.

There is hardly a week or weekend that goes by without news of car crashes on our highways or within city limits. One too many of them are fatal. Whether you are a driver, passenger, cyclist or pedestrian, once you’re out on the road you get to see it up close and it is scary.

People rush to get ahead, to catch that yellow light which often becomes a full red, they drive distracted or under the influence, more so in the summer when partying is in full swing; some tailgate and others switch lanes at the last moment or without signaling. Then there are those who drive their cars with or without attachments such as trailers or campers, without properly securing the cargo. A big peeve of mine is dogs bouncing in the back of a truck, tied or not, but without the protection of a solid kennel (not in the summer heat, of course.)

A cardboard box can be startling as it flies your way from the back of truck; a jerry can cause some serious damage. But try to imagine what a kayak can do. We saw one badly battered by the side of the highway on the way back from a weekend in North Shuswap. Two RVs were stopped haphazardly ahead of the fallen kayak, with two men running back towards it, looking panicked. For a good reason. Can you imagine a kayak flying into your windshield as you drive 100km/h on the highway?

Having good reflexes and being aware of everything that happens around you when you drive, ride or walk, can get you safely to where you are going. Most of the time anyway. You may have seen the video of the close call that occurred during the Penticton Grandfondo when the driver of a truck had to veer into the opposing traffic lane (thankfully no vehicles were coming) to avoid hitting the cyclists who suddenly spilled into his lane due to two of them colliding. Luck, attention, and good reflexes lead to no injuries or fatalities.

But there are so many heartbreaking stories. You may remember Jennifer Gatey, who was hit and killed while sitting on a curb at the bus station near her family home. She was a day shy of turning 17. It’s impossible to put in words the kind of pain that Jennifer’s family went through that day and afterwards too. Life goes on and time heals everything, as they say, but that is the kind of hurt that keeps on hurting.

Then again, it’s not just pedestrians that are at risk when moving vehicles are concerned. Last week, I read about Brian Watson, who in was killed while riding his motorcycle on the Squilax-Anglemont Road back in April of 2016. He was hit from the back by a truck. No reason whatsoever, he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, according to the court who let the driver of the truck, Raymond Edward Swann, walk out without any court-imposed conditions, citing a psychotic episode.

What is the value of human life and how is it possible that our judicial system gives us reason to ask the same repeatedly and doubt that the interests of the victims and their families are properly considered? What if it happens again? Could it? No one has a crystal ball hence the questionable value of ‘low risk to reoffend’; but we keep hearing that too, nonetheless.

Could harsher sentences become a deterrent for future accidents? For those among us who have never lost anyone under those circumstances, life moves on and does it magic. For those faced with the reality of going through the court proceedings only to see it all end with light sentences or none at all… I cannot imagine the pain. Changes are needed.

Meanwhile, let’s all agree that life is the most precious gift and do what’s in our power to stay harm-free on the road and keep others safe too. Driving is a privilege, which can and should be taken away, at least temporarily, if abused. There is no magic solution to make all road dangers disappear, but respecting the rules, and being fully alert and present while driving, cycling, or walking can help lower the stats.

Here’s to a safe rest of the summer and year too!