Beyond the Headlines

A deadly year

Posted: Oct 29, 2012 4:40 PM ET Last Updated: Oct 29, 2012 4:40 PM ET
It's been a deadly year on Nova Scotia's roads and highways. 
This weekend alone, police had to inform the families of four people that their loved ones had died in traffic accidents.
Saturday morning a 65 year-old man died when his vehicle struck a pillar on Highway 102. Later that afternoon, 72 year-old twins from Youngs Cove died when their car collided head-on with a truck on Shore Road West.
And at about 6am Sunday morning, an 18 year-old from Fall River died when the car he was driving left the road on Highway 2. His 17 year-old passenger suffered serious injuries.
These four deaths brings to 71 the number of Nova Scotians who have lost their lives in traffic accidents so far this year. That's more than all of last year, or the year before.  In fact it reverses a trend that has seen the number of traffic fatalities steadily declining.
Just look at these numbers:
2007 - 99 fatalities
2008 - 82 fatalities
2009 - 72 fatalities
2010 - 69 fatalities
2011 - 65 fatalities
2012 (first ten months) - 71 fatalities
There are plenty of reasons why we've seen a steady drop in the number of traffic-related deaths. We have more divided highways in Nova Scotia, more people wear seatbelts, and drinking and driving has become socially unacceptable.
The troubling fact is, no one seems to know why this year that trend has suddenly reversed course. Police officers -- the ones who have to respond to these tragic accidents --- don't have an explanation either, but they do have a few theories.
A little while ago I spoke with Cpl. Ron MacDonald, a senior RCMP accident investigator in Cape Breton. He offered the surprising theory that perhaps the good weather we've had this year may be one reason why are are seeing more fatal accidents this year. MacDonald says the nice weather gets people out of their houses and out on the road.
Then two things happen: first, people tend to lose their focus when the weather is sunny and get distracted more easily. If that happens, with more cars on the road there is a greater chance of a head-on collision, or over-correcting to avoid on coming traffic.
Then there are the usual factors we hear from accident investigators: cell phone distraction, excessive speed, alcohol and drugs.
Whatever the reasons it all adds to a troubling trend. Let's hope the spike in traffic deaths this year is just an anomaly.
Cpl. MacDonald says he likes to remind drivers that when they are behind the wheel, it is the most important job they have, and just one moment of distraction can be deadly.
A reminder that -- given the carnage on our roads --  is well worth repeating.
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About the Author

Brian DuBreuil is a veteran journalist with CBC News. He has won two Gemini awards for his work, and neither involved dancing or singing on a reality show.

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