Vehophobia – the fear of driving

From The Editor’s Desk

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By DAWN BOOTH, Managing Editor of Connect Weekly

Imagine this: You’re driving with three crying children in the back seats of your vehicle. You’re concentrating on the task at hand – the road in front of you, all while trying to calm your passengers. It’s pretty much impossible to focus your attention on driving. This is a driving distraction I encounter on the occasion. During these times, I have to pull over to calm my children and calm myself.

According to the Canadian Automobile Association, children are four times more distracting than adults as passengers, and infants are eight times more distracting than adults as passengers – this doesn’t shock me.

But it’s just one distraction example of the many that come from inside the vehicle. I find it odd that some drivers, willingly, create their own distractions by talking on their hand-held devices or driving around with a pet on their lap. (A police officer can issue the driver a $287 ticket for both of these offences. Read the full list of illegal driving distractions on the Alberta Transportation’s website at www.transportation.alberta.ca/DistractedDriving.htm.)

When it comes to road accidents, it’s not only impaired driving and speeding that result in collisions. In 2010, the National High Traffic Safety Administration stated: “80 per cent of collisions and 65 per cent of near crashes have some form of driver inattention as contributing factors.” This is why it’s important to drive with caution. Lives change in a moment and it can take one second to become a car crash victim.

Behind the wheel use to be a terrifying place for me, and when situations like my children crying happen, it makes me reconsider driving at all. Thankfully, this isn’t a regular occurrence, but it does happen unexpectedly and brings back my fear. On the contrary, it’s my children that gave me the courage to learn how to drive in the first place and I’ve only been a licensed driver for almost three years now.

I wasn’t the average 16-year-old who counted the days to get behind the wheel. If anything, I avoided it at every possible opportunity.

When I was four, I survived a car crash with my mother. I recently asked my mother about the accident, something we continue to talk about throughout the years. She told me how we were driving on the Queensway in Toronto, Ontario.

“You came out of the seat belt. You were laying on the floor and my first thought: was she alive or dead.”

“I was going through a flashing green, when a New Yorker (vehicle) was coming off the QEW ramp hit us,” she recalled. “The vehicle must have been going 100 kilometres when it hit our Chevette. Our car came off its axles and it happened in seconds. You were sitting in the front seat buckled – the laws weren’t the same back then. You came out of the seat belt. You were laying on the floor and my first thought: was she alive or dead.”

Thankfully, we survived the crash with no broken bones or internal injuries. And though, I vaguely remember any of this, I blame it as part of the reason to why it took me so long to get behind the wheel.

The other part is the loved ones I lost in car crashes. Three friends, in three separate accidents, which involved cases from driving impaired to driving error. Back then, the series of loss eliminated my courage and my driving phobia was too uncontrollable to overcome.

Tragedies are never easy. Loosing loved ones is never easy… I still grieve, but I’m no longer afraid. After I had my second child, I quickly discover that I couldn’t be dependent on family, friends or cab drivers for transportation. I found the confidence and took a training course here in Fort McMurray. One of the several benefits of taking the course was I learned how to drive in the winter. I feel this has made me my best.

With winter soon settling in – the nights are getting darker, and road conditions will inevitably worsen. I ask you to drive with caution and be alert. Don’t rush the ride and give other drivers their space. Follow the rules of the roads to arrive home safely.

Safe Community Wood Buffalo is hosting the National Day of Remembrance for Road Crash Victims on Wednesday, November 18 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at MacDonald Island. I deeply encourage everyone to attend, as there will be informative information available for us to better educate ourselves on road safety.

– Connect Weekly –