Steinbach man driving hearse to raise awareness about texting and driving

Dave Redl is hitting the road with his hearse and casket to give drivers a very stern warning about the dangers of texting behind the wheel.

Students pledge to avoid distracted driving by leaving fingerprints on casket

Dave Redl is hitting the road with his hearse and casket to give drivers a very stern warning about the dangers of texting behind the wheel. The Steinbach man has been driving around in a white Cadillac hearse outfitted with decals and strobe lights to raise awareness about distracted driving. 1:54

Dave Redl is hitting the road with his hearse and casket to give drivers a very stern warning about the dangers of texting behind the wheel.

The Steinbach man has been driving around in a white 1995 Cadillac S&S Medalist hearse outfitted with decals and strobe lights to raise awareness about distracted driving as part of a project dubbed Last Responder.

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      The hearse has a casket inside that's visible to other drivers and Redl said that's got drivers talking. "When you see a hearse on the road you instantly think of death."

      Redl said he bought the hearse for $500 from a funeral home while looking for older cars and was going to sell it until he found out the vehicle was a limited edition.

      Inspired by God, he said that's when he decided to put it to good use. "I see lots of drinking and driving ads but I've never seen anything with texting and driving."

      He admits the response from drivers has been mixed.
      The hearse has lights on both its interior and exterior and mimics what would be used in a regular funeral procession. (Dave Redl)

      "A lot of people love it, they think this is the greatest thing out there and then there's some people out there that just don't like it at all they think it's too morbid."

      But for Redl that's the point. He said he recently had a father come up to him at the parts store to thank him for the difference he's making.

      "He said 'my son, my wife and I are scared that he's going to kill himself one day because he refuses to put down his phone when he drives.'"
      The hearse is covered in decals warning against distracted driving. (Dave Redl)

      "'He says he came home last night in tears because he seen your hearse sitting in front of him at a stoplight. It just hit him.'"

      "I've been getting lots of stories like that," Redl said.

      Redl said he used to text and drive over a decade ago and one time he rear-ended another driver.

      He never got a ticket because it wasn't illegal at the time in Manitoba to text behind the wheel and said while the incident didn't stick with him back then, now it has.

      Students touch casket as part of vow 

      RCMP officer Kerri McKee has joined the Last Responder project and constantly sees drivers texting.

      "You can see it at every stop light at every intersection there's usually always somebody who has the head down to the right and you know what they're doing," she said.

      Redl brought the hearse for a distracted driving presentation at the Virden Collegiate Institute last Friday.

      There, he asked students to make a pledge to never text behind the wheel.

      The hearse was $500. (Dave Redl)

      Students who said yes then dipped their fingers in red ink and left prints on the casket inside the hearse. Redl said he hopes they never forget that moment.

      "If you're driving, you grab a phone, you're going to start thinking about that casket that you touched."

      Aside from raising awareness, Redl said the hearse makes a great ride.

      "It's smooth. It's like driving a ship. It's air ride suspension, like you think of a hearse as 'oh creepy' type thing but me as a car guy I look at as the best ride I've ever driven in my life. "

      About the Author

      Austin Grabish

      Reporter

      ​Austin Grabish is a reporter for CBC News in Winnipeg​ where he files for TV, web and radio. ​​Born and raised in Manitoba, Austin has had an itch for news since he was young. He landed his first byline when he was just 18. Before joining CBC, he reported for several outlets with work running across the country. He studied human rights in university and holds both a degree and diploma in communications.​ Email: austin.grabish@cbc.ca