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With provincial travel restrictions now lifted, people once again have the opportunity to explore British Columbia in all its glory. However, as many of us may be preparing for extended road trips, we need to ensure that all of the pent-up anxiety associated with the pandemic doesn’t get the best of us.

It goes without saying that accidents will happen, but we all have a role in keeping our roadways safe.

According to ICBC, an average of 283 people died in motor vehicle collisions each year, between 2015 and 2019. Not surprisingly, speed is the number one cause of car crashes. However, risky behaviours like distracted driving, operating a vehicle while under the influence or riding without a seatbelt are all factors that influence these numbers.

In May 2021, the Provincial Government announced the launch of BC Road Safety Strategy 2025: A Collaborative Framework for Road Safety. The Strategy focuses on the target of continuous downward trends in the rate-based number of fatalities and serious injuries by 50% by 2030 (as per Canada’s commitment, and B.C.’s adoption of the 2020 Stockholm Declaration road safety targets).

The framework outlines the tools, initiatives, awareness campaigns and enforcement programs that are integral to a broad strategy and New Car Dealers are pleased to support such an important initiative.

A Safe System approach recognizes that road users will make mistakes. This means that the systems we have in place such as physical infrastructure, education and awareness, enforcement, and policies must be focused on effectively reducing both the number and severity of collisions. Meaningful and effective actions need to be evidence-based and focused on safe road users, safe speeds, safe roads, and safe vehicles.

From the perspective of the automotive sector, we know that new and emerging technology can play an important role in traffic safety and preventing serious injuries.

While not commonplace, there are a host of new innovations coming our way. As an example, while we’re familiar with frontal, side and curtain airbags, a relatively new airbag is becoming a must-have for modern cars – the centre airbag. It is designed to provide cushioning between the heads of the two front-seat occupants in the event of a side impact or rollover.

Adaptive cruise control with lane-trace and stop-and-go will identify live speed limit changes and adjust accordingly, as well as slow to a stop at red lights or in bumper-to-bumper traffic, before restarting again. Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) is an important safety feature, and we applaud ICBC for offering a discount for vehicles with this technology.

Safe exit warnings will contribute to safety even when your vehicle is stopped. In some newer model vehicles, sensors will detect approaching hazards, like a cyclist or another car and show a side view on the vehicle’s infotainment screen.  And, while most modern vehicles are now equipped with a rear-vision camera and parking sensors, some now offer a bird’s eye view of your car in its surroundings via an overhead camera. This is particularly useful when parking and maneuvering in tight spaces, or when trying to navigate curbs or specific obstacles.

Another component of road safety is preparation, and with wildfire season in BC starting early this year, it is all the more vital to check road conditions ahead of your trip via the website for the most updated information.

There are many aspects to traffic safety, but the one constant is the overwhelming need for drivers to maintain focus. As you or your family prepare to hit the road, be safe out there.

Blair Qualey is President and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of BC. You can email him at [email protected].