Tuesday, February 23, 2010
This is an article from Jim Kenzie's, The Driver's Seat, which appeared on-line February 23, 2010.
You can read the original article here.
One of the main advantages of a blog to me is that I can answer readers' e-mails and letters, and broadcast them to a wider audience.
It is also, as She Who Must Be Obeyed a.k.a. the Chancellor of the Exchequer notes, a way to get PAID for answering my e-mail, which otherwise I do for free!
BTW, I DO try to answer as many e-mails personally as I can; forgive me if I don't always succeed.
Anyway, a reader complained about my Carte Blanche in the print edition of Wheels recently on the sad death of Brendan Burke, son of Leafs' General Manager Brian Burke, which included a harangue against the use of the word 'accident' to describe car crashes.
The reader wrote:
Check your dictionary. If it was an unexpected event then it was an accident. If it was an unintended event the nit was an accident. If it was by chance or mishap, then it was an accident.
Most words in the English language have more than one meaning. You are entitled to your preference: an event without apparent cause, but other uses for the word should not be condemned.
To which I replied:English is an incredibly rich language, due at least in part - or so I am told - to the British Navy! England effectively ruled the world for several centuries, and its language benefited immensely from contributions from several diverse sources.
So we have many words available to us to describe various meanings or shades of meaning, and it is imperative, especially for professional communicators, to be as selective and precise as we can be.
As you say, we also have many words which have multiple meanings. In some cases, popular usage and context have given certain words specific connotations which we also must respect, whether we like them or not.
For example, your boss might be a cheerful, happy person, but in today's parlance, you might want to be careful about calling him 'gay', even if that is a technically correct way of describing his personality. Unless he or she is also 'gay' in the modern sense of that word; not that there's anything wrong with that.
Again, it is imperative that we choose words that do not come loaded with sub-textual meaning, lest our original intentions become muddied.
I do in fact check my dictionary frequently. As you may be able to tell already, words and their meanings are very important to me, as they should be to every writer. Words are even a major component of two of my main hobbies - I am a 'cryptic crossword' puzzle enthusiast, and one of my major tasks in my little rock 'n' roll band is making sure I get the lyrics correct, even for the songs on which the other guys sing lead!
I hope you would accept that the Oxford Dictionary is a reasonable arbiter in determining the meanings of words. Here's what the on-line version of Oxford has to say about 'accident':
1. an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally.
2. an incident that happens by chance or without apparent cause.
The first meaning seems to agree with your definition. But the other two meanings use the word "chance", which implies a sense of randomness to the incident. Definition 2 specifically mentions "without apparent cause", and that certainly does NOT apply to car crashes, which virtually always have definitive, predictable and largely preventable causes.
In other words (!) it is not merely the absence of intent which causes something to be labeled an "accident".
Consider the field of jurisprudence. There is a major distinction between 'murder' and 'involuntary manslaughter'. My understanding of the law (my father was a lawyer) is that 'intent' is a major differentiator. But the victim is still dead; a crime has been committed. You would not say that a death determined to be 'involuntary manslaughter' was an 'accident' solely because there was no 'intent' to kill the person. It did NOT happen by 'chance'; there WAS a cause.
There are also varying degrees of negligence in the law, some of which call for criminal punishment. Again, perhaps there was no 'intent' to commit a crime, but failure to take reasonable precautions also can impart guilt. Likewise in civil cases.
And so it is in virtually every car crash. There is either an action that WAS done by someone which caused the crash to occur, or an action that was NOT done, and the negligence in not doing so was what allowed the crash to happen.
Consider these two descriptions of a hypothetical traffic crash:
(1): Joe Schmoe, 40, was killed in a car accident last night. His car lost control and ran head-on into a minivan carrying a family of six. Schmoe and the six family members were all pronounced dead at the scene.
(2) Joe Schmoe, 40, was killed last night when the Mississauga resident, whose Blood Alcohol Content was posthumously measured at 0.10 (0.08 is the legal limit) and who had not taken any advanced driver training, abandoned control of his car when it began to skid on a slippery corner.
The car ran head-on into a minivan carrying a family of six. Schmoe, who was not wearing his seat belt, was ejected from the car and died on impact. All six family members were also killed.
To me, and to virtually everyone in the traffic safety 'community' (speaking of connotations I don't like; to me, the word 'community' means people living in a geographically contiguous manner, but it has acquired a different sense in context...) the first description, notably the get-out-of-jail-free word "accident", implies that there was nothing Schmoe could have done to prevent these deaths.
True, he probably did not 'intend' to have a crash (we know a substantial percentage of fatal car crashes are suicides; we just don't know for sure how large that number is...).
But when you study the statistics, you can only conclude that Schmoe did NOT do at least one thing he could have done - learn how to drive! - to prevent the collision from happening at all; and he DID at least two things that increased the chances of it being fatal, both to himself and to the innocent victims - driving drunk, and not wearing his seat belt.
I will allow that it was by 'chance' that the minivan was involved in the crash. But without the actions taken and not taken by Schmoe, there would not have been a crash in the first place; the crash DID have a cause or causes, and hence can hardly be considered an 'accident'.
The reason we in said 'traffic safety community' rail against the 'A'-word is because it tends to let the Schmoes of the world off the hook.
Why use a word like 'accident' which adds nothing to the description of the event except a sense that there was nothing that could have been done to prevent the event, when words like 'crash' or 'collision' simply describe the event, without imparting either guilt or innocence to anyone?
That is why we are trying to eliminate the 'A'-word from media car crash descriptions.
Is this just another example of political correctness running wild?
But words ARE important, and we believe it is critical that we use the most accurate words we can, to make sure the full meaning of what we are trying to communicate is in fact communicated.
After the Wheels column which initiated this discussion appeared, Number One Daughter noticed a report on a fatal traffic crash in the Scarborough Mirror (one of The Star's sister company Metroland's titles) which did in fact use 'crash', not the 'A'-word, and also mentioned that the investigating police officers had not yet determined if the victims had been wearing their seat belts.
Maybe the timing of this story and my column was sheer coincidence, but at least the reporter at
The Mirror was asking the right questions.
Good on him.
I hope all media people - print, broadcast, narrow-cast, new media, whatever - will follow suit.
I completely agree with Mr. Kenzie on this issue. The use of the word accident has done a terrible disservice to all of us, creating a "cop-out" mentality view of collisions. "Accident" and "not-at-fault" have minimized the liability and responsibility issues associated with collisions.
What's your thoughts? Let us know.
Monday, February 22, 2010
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Traffic fatality #11/2010
Broadcast time: 16:12
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Traffic Services 416−808−1900
On Thursday, February 18, 2010, at 12:18 a.m., police responded to a personal injury collision on Pharmacy Avenue, at St. Bede’s Road.
It is alleged that:
− an 18−year−old man, driving an Eagle Talon, was southbound on Pharmacy Avenue, at St. Bede’s Road, travelling at high speed,
− the driver lost control of his car which left the roadway, striking a hydro pole, coming to rest 40 metres down the street,
− during the collision, a 19−year−old woman and a 15−year−old girl were ejected from the rear seat,
− the driver and the 15 year−old girl fled the scene of the collision but were located at hospital, The 15−year−old girl sustained non−life−threatening injuries.
The 18−year−old man was treated for non−life−threatening injuries and was later arrested. The 19−year−old woman was taken to hospital with life−threatening injuries and later died.
Donald LePage, 18, of Toronto, has been charged with:
1) Dangerous Operation Causing Death,
2) Dangerous Operation Causing Bodily Harm,
3) Fail to stop at scene of accident cause death,
4) Fail to stop at scene of accident bodily harm,
5) Drive motor vehicle, no licence,
6) Use plate not authorized for motor vehicle.
He was scheduled to appear in court at 1911 Eglinton Avenue East, on Thursday, February 18, 2010, room 412, at 2 p.m.
Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 416−808−1900, Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416−222−TIPS (8477), online at www.222tips.com, or text TOR and yourID:message to CRIMES (274637).
Traffic Services is dedicated to ensuring the safe and orderly movement of traffic within the City of Toronto. Stay informed with what’s happening at Traffic Services by following us on Twitter (TrafficServices), and Facebook (Toronto Police – Traffic Services).
Public Safety Alert, Pedestrian safety advice
Broadcast time: 10:34
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Traffic Services 416−808−1900
Pedestrian deaths on our roadways have represented a greater percentage of all traffic fatalities over the last few years. To ensure pedestrian safety, police would like to remind the public of their responsibilities crossing the roadways.
To lawfully cross a signalized intersection with pedestrian controls, you may only enter the roadway when the walk signal is illuminated for your direction of travel.
It is illegal to enter the roadway if the “do not walk signal” is flashing or is solid.
When there are no pedestrian controls, you may only enter the roadway on a solid green signal for your direction of travel.
Where there are painted lines on the roadway indicating either a pedestrian crosswalk or pedestrian crossover, you must cross within those lines.
It is illegal to cross a street mid−block and interfere with traffic.
The Toronto Police Service is encouraging pedestrians and motorists to be alert and and take the necessary steps to ensure their safety by following these tips:
− cross with traffic controls and be cautious when crossing any intersection,
− pay attention to surroundings when entering and leaving TTC vehicles,
− make sure you are visible; wear bright or reflective clothing,
− make an effort to get eye contact with drivers before stepping off the curb,
− be patient and courteous and respectful of all road−users,
− cross on a fresh signal, watching out for vehicles turning across your path.
Pedestrians have the same responsibility as motorists to follow the rules of the road and not compromise their safety or that of any road users. No matter who has the right of way,pedestrians should always be prepared to stop, look and listen for other traffic to avoid a collision.
Reposted from the CBC News website...link at the end of the articles will take you to the original story with all the readers comments...very interesting as usual.
The driver of a car that struck and badly injured two pedestrians in midtown Toronto has been charged with careless driving and failure to stop at a red light.
Two women, aged 61 and 53, were both taken to Sunnybrook Hospital. One has life-threatening injuries and the other is listed in serious condition.
Sgt. Tim Burrows of the police traffic division said the women were struck by a red Acura as they crossed the intersection at Eglinton Avenue East and Bayview Avenue, at around 8:30 a.m.
The 61-year-old woman sustained the more serious injuries, police said in a release.
The 44-year-old driver of the Acura was charged Wednesday afternoon. She will make a court appearance in Toronto April 8.
According to police the pedestrians were inside the crosswalk, crossing from the north to the south side of Eglinton when they were hit by the car as it travelled east.
Police closed the intersection to investigate, but re-opened it at around 11:45 a.m.
There were 14 pedestrian deaths across the GTA in January. Ten of the deaths were in Toronto.
Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/toronto/story/2010/02/17/toronto-pedestrians.html#ixzz0fwVnMn9f
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
According to the news reports this morning Toronto is about to get a blast of Winter. A staggering 7cm has been predicted for the area...7cm (2 and 3/4 inches)...look out!!
Don't let anyone in the Mid-Atlantic States know that we are calling this a serious problem. This is Canada!! That's the amount of snow we are supposed to get daily...come on. Has the pampering of the past few dry months made us all forget how to drive in winter?
YES THEY HAVE...they always do!!!
I predict that if the snow falls during a busy drive time (afternoon or morning rush), we will be crippled by cars that have spun out, gone into the ditch, cars that have rear ended other cars and people that can't see because they refuse to clear more than a 4 inch square to look through, while they blind the rest of us when the snow clears itself off their cars, onto ours.
Every first snow fall of the year, police everywhere shudder at what is going to happen on our roads. It's not the severity of the crashes that occur, it's the frequency of preventable collisions or driving hazards.
So, to help out everyone that 'needs' to drive...(have you tried public transit, even if only for bad weather days?)...here are:
The Top 10 Things You Can Do To Stay Safe In Bad Winter Weather
10.) Ensure your tires have the proper pressure, adequate tread depth and are in good overall condition.
9.) Carry and USE a good quality snow brush and scrapper. Clean the entire car and scrape all your windows. (Don't use wipers and washer fluid to do this...re-freeze and wiper damage will result)
8.) Replace your wiper blades as needed and keep washer fluid reservoir full. Winter plays havoc on the blades and you will use a lot of the juice. (ice, salt and grime destroys the blades, keep an extra jug in the trunk.)
7.) Don't wear heavy boots. Keep them with you but wear sensible shoes for driving (You don't want to press two pedals at the same time)
6.) Dress in layers so that you will still be warm when you take off the over-stuffed, over sized winter coat to drive. (better for sight and movement)
5.) If you need a quick defrost, turn on your air conditioner in the warm position with circulation set to re-circulate. (Pulls moisture out of the air)
4.) Leave extra space in front of you...you may need it and you are control of it. (Slippery roads require greater distance to stop so give yourself extra to start with.)
3.) Signal all lane changes and turns. (You have to all the time, but since the roads suck away some of your safety net in winter you want to give everyone warnings to all your movements.)
2.) SLOW DOWN!!! "But the speed limit is 60 officer. I couldn't have been going too fast for the conditions." The speed limit is the maximum speed for IDEAL conditions...of which winter driving is not ideal. Leave sooner, add extra time to all your trips.
...and the number 1 thing you can do to stay safe in bad winter weather is...
1.) DON'T DRIVE (public transit, car pooling, time shifting, staying home, avoid unnecessary trips)
Make my earlier prediction false. Snow will always slow us down, bad driving makes us stop. Use these ten, especially 3, 2 and 1 and you will show my prediction to be wrong.
I love this quote from my partner who is one of Toronto's best driver training officers.
"Once your environment changes, your driving behaviour and attitude must change with it"
-Police Constable Hugh Smith-
Sunday, February 7, 2010
I have been asked, like many police officers, “How much can I have to drink and still be ok to drive?”
The traffic safety officer in me says, “None. As soon as you take a drink you have started to compromise several of your bodies necessary needs to operate a motor vehicle.”
The realist, everyday person, husband and father says, “Are you stupid? Why do you want to drink and then drive? There is no amount that is safe dumb a….! My kids play road hockey on the street. We are driving coming home from dinner or shopping. Don’t you dare risk our lives with your stupidity!!”
You see, it comes up around this time of year, Super Bowl Sunday, Victoria Day Weekend (Memorial Day), Labour Day, New Years, over and over…”But just one or two is ok right?
Sure it is. No one wants to ruin your good time. No one has ever said don’t have a drink. Many of us can go out and have drinks and there is absolutely no problem….as long as you aren’t driving afterwards.
Public transit, taxi’s, limo’s, car pooling with a designated driver, getting a hotel room, phone a friend/parent/child/sibling…there are many, many options.
On the flip side, having your car impounded, losing your license, getting arrested and having a criminal record, risking hurting someone else or yourself, maybe even death…is the one or tow drinks worth that? What if you got into a collision that wasn’t your fault, but the collision report says…had been drinking. Explain that to your insurance company.
What about the breath devices that you can use in a bar, or devices you can buy at the drug store. How about BAC calculators that tell you what your alcohol level is? There is even an App for that and a device you can add to your iPhone/iPod.
Do you want to trust your license, livelihood and life to a $45 dollar device that is never calibrated to scientific measurements that police use? Does it not seem suspicious that a bar that by nature sells alcohol would offer a device to tell you to stop drinking?
Here is the simple answer…NONE!!!!! IF YOU DRINK, DON’T DRIVE.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Re-post from wheels.ca, saturday february, 6th.
SPECIAL TO THE STAR
I'm not talking fashion here. This is not about making Bruno proud of your attire. This is all about vision and how you use this most important sense while driving.
Knowing where to look while driving is absolutely critical for safe motoring. It is a skill that is not emphasized nearly enough in most driving schools.
It requires a great deal of guidance and training to develop good vision skills.
Unfortunately, we must overcome hundreds of thousands of years of evolutionary hardwiring to use our vision efficiently for driving. Over all those millennia, our brains developed in such a way that we instinctively look toward the ground as we walk or run. Our ancestors had to watch for rocks, logs and dips in their pathway while on the move at speeds around, say, 10 km/h. As a result, it's not natural to keep our eyes up and vision high for today's high-speed transportation.
Here are some good vision-training techniques to work on whenever you're behind the wheel:
Keep your vision high: It's crucial to look as far up the road as possible. Allowing our eyes to drop to focus on the vehicle in front of us is natural and very easy to do. This is a common mistake among motorists. There are three main dangers with this bad habit:
It's not enough to simply react to what the vehicle in front does. We need to know much earlier what is making the traffic in front of us brake, swerve or slide off the road.
If we're looking at the vehicle in front of us and its driver makes a mistake, we will likely make the same mistake.
It can lead to "vision lock," where our dazed eyes focus on an object.
Keeping our vision high also has another benefit. Our brain is always making thousands of calculations per second without our being aware of it, affecting our balance and direction, for example. With our vision high, our brain can orient itself to the horizon. This allows us to pick up subtle changes in our vehicles' attitude so we can make early successful corrections instead of the late big corrections, which rarely work as a result of our vision being too low.
Look to where you want to go: We have all heard the coaching mantra "keep your eye on the ball.'' Whether it is golf or baseball, many athletes have been trained to look at something if they want to hit it. The same applies to driving. If you want to collide with something, look at it. Since all of us would prefer not to hit something when driving, it's best not to look at any object you wish to avoid. Always look to where you want to go. If a vehicle pulls out into your path or a child runs in front of your vehicle, do not look at them, look at your escape route to avoid them.
You will always go to where you are looking. It's not easy to develop the skill of taking your eyes off the threat in front of you and look to where you need to be going.
Even simple turns are accomplished with better precision and ease when looking to where you want to be and not where you are. More complicated curves are handled with less drama and stress.
Check your mirrors every five to eight seconds: What is behind you will likely try to pass you at some point in your trip. By glancing in your mirrors more often, you won't be surprised by other vehicles approaching from behind. Pilots call this "situational awareness."
It's vital to safe driving that you know where all other vehicles are or where they are likely to be.
Do the A-pillar shuffle: With modern vehicles being designed with improved aerodynamics and styling in mind, windshields are becoming more reclined. As a result, engineers must strengthen the posts around the windshield to help prevent the roof from collapsing on the occupants in a rollover.
To do this they must make the pillar holding up the front windshield thicker. The result is a large blind spot around the side-view mirrors and up to the roof line big enough to hide a pedestrian, cyclist or even a complete vehicle.
To see around this, simply move your head side to side or what I call the A-pillar shuffle when trying to see in that direction.
Good vision habits are critical to safe driving.
Advanced driving schools and racing schools dedicate hours of training to proper vision techniques as this yields the biggest gains in driving skill.
I can't say enough about Ian's "A-pillar Shuffle". A large number of pedestrian struck collisions at intersections can be attributed to drivers not looking around the A-pillar, (or looking before they turn period). As a driver you absolutely have to look in the direction you are going to travel before you move the wheels there.
Broadcast time: 11:28 Friday, February 5, 2010
Traffic Services 416−808−1900
Public Safety Advisory Drinking and driving
Drinking and driving remains the number one criminal cause of death in Canada. In Ontario, approximately one−quarter of all road fatalities are alcohol related. Over 16,000 people in Ontario are convicted criminally for drinking−and−driving−related offences.
The Toronto Police Service recognizes the danger that drinking and driving pose to all our citizens. We are vigilant in our measures to recognize, intervene and deal with those people who endanger us all.
This weekend the Service will increase its efforts to protect the people of Toronto with multiple RIDE spotchecks and patrols targeting those who drink and drive. The message is, and always will be, “If you drink, don’t drive.”
We would also remind everyone that choosing a responsible option to driving is the first step. Public transit, designated drivers, taxis and hotels are all excellent choices.
It is also worth noting that walking while intoxicated is extremely dangerous. Many pedestrians have been seriously injured or killed from walking, stumbling or falling into traffic.
As a reminder, if you see someone who appears to be, or you know is driving, or about to drive, impaired call 9−1−1 immediately. The life you save could be your loved one.
Constable Isabelle Cotton, Public Information, for Sergeant Tim Burrows, Traffic Services