Less than a year ago, on the Perimeter Highway south of Winnipeg, four people lost their lives after an impaired driver travelling on the wrong side of the road struck another vehicle. Everyone involved in the collision died in those early morning hours.
Unfortunately, this story is not the only one. RCMP responded to 71 fatal collisions in 2021, and already this year, there are 26 people who have died on Manitoba roadways in RCMP jurisdiction. In Winnipeg Police Service jurisdiction, 9 people died on the roads in 2021, and 6 so far this year.
May 17, 2022, is the beginning of Canada Road Safety Week, and it is time to have an open conversation about what police are seeing on the roads in Manitoba.
“We need to be honest: this is not about education anymore,” said Insp. Joe Telus, Officer in Charge of RCMP Traffic Services. “People know to avoid high-risk driving behaviours. They know to slow down, buckle up, pay attention to the road, and drive sober. At this point, it is time to realize this is about people making choices, and some of those choices have cost people their lives.”
The Winnipeg Police Service sees the same high-risk driving behaviours on city streets.
“We have already responded to six motor vehicle fatalities in Winnipeg this year,” says Insp. Doug Roxburgh, commander of the Winnipeg Police Service Traffic Division. “There were nine in all of 2021. This is a concerning trend.
“Some of that has to do with increased traffic volumes, but it also reflects some of those seemingly small decisions motorists make that have a big impact on our roadways. The decisions drivers make don’t just affect them. They can affect their passengers, other drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians.”
Police continue to ask drivers to make safe choices on the roads, but increased enforcement and more enforcement tools are also being used to combat high-risk driving behaviours. Mandatory alcohol screening, automated licence plate readers, and continued work by front-line traffic enforcement officers are some of the ways they are doing that.
“It is so important to have the message of making safe choices get through to people,” said Sgt. Ken Pinsent, a Forensic Collision Reconstructionist with the RCMP and the officer who investigated the fatal Perimeter collision on August 21, 2021. “It is my job to go to the worst collision scenes, and I have been to many. What I saw that day will stay with me forever. The amount of tragedy on that little stretch of roadway is haunting. I can’t help think, if only… .”
Lives can change in the matter of an instant, and both the RCMP and the Winnipeg Police Service want to ask everyone who drives a motor vehicle to take that instant to make a safe choice, so a police officer isn’t knocking on your door telling your loved ones you are not coming home.
Slow down, buckle up, pay attention to the road, and drive sober. We’re all in this together, let’s keep everyone safe.