When the May long weekend finally rolls around, it’s time to put away the winter clothes, fire up the barbecue and say hello to warm weather; but Spring’s official welcome party has a dark side too—it is often fraught with news of heavy traffic, accidents and dangerous driving.
In B.C., for example, an average 1,700 crashes occur over the three-day holiday weekend. Those crashes injure about 500 people in the province and kill an average of three people every year.
RCMP sergeant Larry Dalman has seen many accidents occur over the Victoria Day long weekend, when many drivers are sharing the road with increased traffic, and many people are towing boats or trailers.
"The hardest part for me," he says, "is telling people their loved ones are gone, not because of anything they did, but because one poor decision by someone else has sealed their fate. It never gets easy."
He’s spent nearly 40 years as an officer, and says drinking and driving has caused many of the deadly collisions he’s seen.
Alcohol often to blame
The May 2-4 weekend is often associated with drinks on the patio, especially if a trip to the cottage or cabin is on the agenda. The combination of holiday travel and impaired driving is sure to be big contributor to the rise in deadly collisions on long weekends.
The RCMP in Manitoba say about 40 per cent of deadly crashes in rural areas involve at least one impaired driver. MADD Canada’s numbers are similar; about 42 per cent of fatal crashes in Canada involve a driver who is impaired.
What to do to stay safe
The statistics may be frightening for those travelling this May long weekend, but there are ways drivers can reduce their risk of getting into a collision. Sgt. Dalman recommends making the decision to drink or drive in advance.
"If you know you will be consuming alcohol, plan ahead. Get a designated driver or spend the night. The best decisions are made sober."
The Insurance Bureau of Canada also offers the following tips for safe driving this weekend:
- Never drink and drive. Alcohol and drugs reduce a driver’s reaction time. If you have had a drink, use a designated driver.
- Avoid driver distractions such as talking on a hand-held cellphone and texting.
- Use seatbelts, car seats and booster seats properly.
- Obey the rules of the road, respect the rights of other drivers and drive according to road conditions.
- If you’re experiencing driver fatigue, pull off the road to a safe spot and have a nap. Driving while drowsy can be just as dangerous as impaired driving.
- Share the road. Be cautious of cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians. Always yield to vulnerable road users, even if they don’t have the right-of-way.
- Don’t be intimidated by night driving. Drive carefully and use your headlights properly, including being courteous when using your high beams.
- Have your vehicle checked to make sure everything is working properly. Repair or replace worn parts. Check fluid levels and tire pressure. Make sure all lights work.
- Before you tow a trailer or haul a load, make sure your vehicle is properly equipped for the job. Check your owner’s manual or contact your vehicle dealer. Ensure that your rear-view mirrors give a clear view of the road.
- If you see a wild animal on or near the road, brake firmly, but don’t swerve. Sound your horn in a series of short bursts to frighten the animal away.