Several serious motor vehicle collisions have occurred in Thunder Bay this winter and the professionals who see the consequences want drivers to take note.
Most motor vehicle collisions are preventable, Thunder Bay Police traffic sergeant Glenn Porter says.
"There's so many people injured in the course of a year needlessly," he said.
Traffic collisions send more than 1,000 drivers, passengers and pedestrians to Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre's Emergency Department every year.
The director of the hospital’s trauma program said improved safety features in vehicles, such as crumple zones, and proper use of seatbelts help minimize injuries. Dr. Eric Davenport said many injuries are broken bones.
"Someone who's wearing a seatbelt and driving an appropriate rate of speed is a lot more likely to escape a car collision without life-threatening injuries," Davenport said.
But he also sees the consequences when people don't take those precautions -- including devastating organ damage or brain injuries.
Provincial statistics show the number of deaths and injuries from vehicle collisions is declining, but it's still the leading killer of young adults.
Public awareness needed
Davenport said he is worried things could get worse.
"A concern I have as we go forward is that we'll see some of those gains we've made from public health programs and from better vehicle design start to fade because of an increased problem with driver attention."
Both Davenport and Porter said handheld devices are a growing factor in vehicle collisions.
"We're seeing more distracted driving every time that a new device is introduced," Porter said.
"Every new technology, it brings a new distraction. So instead of focusing on the task at hand, which is the driving, people are letting their minds wander and do other things — whether it be talking on the phone, or texting, or talking to passengers in the vehicle."
Davenport wants to see more public awareness and education about new distracting devices in the future.
"Today's handheld device is already potentially going to be replaced by the … ‘i-watch’ that Apple would like to make. And [they’re] talking about Google glass and having glasses that show you stuff while you wear them," he said.
"To integrate all that into the driving experience is impossible without having something compromise your attention. I … urge people not to use those devices when they're driving."