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Retired OPP officer Mark Andrews reflects on National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Road Crashes

There have been four fatal crashes on highways in the northeast in the past nine days. And that's a sad statistic to consider on what happens to be the National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Road Crashes, says retired OPP officer.

'There is no such thing as an accident ... they're all collisions'

Today is National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Road Crashes and a retired OPP officer says people are very distracted these days when it comes to driving. (The Associated Press)

There have been four fatal crashes on highways in the northeast in the past nine days. And that's a sad statistic to consider on what happens to be the National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Road Crashes, says retired OPP officer Mark Andrews.

He has attended countless crash scenes over the years and says he never forgets a single one.

Andrews says the big problem these days is that people are so pre-occupied with COVID-19 that their minds are not on the road.

"Where is my mask? Who am I going to meet there? Is everyone going to be wearing a mask? Do I have my hand sanitizer? Do I really need to go? All those things are going through your mind and, are you paying attention to driving? Are those things superceding what you should be doing? And that is concentrating on driving," he said.

Andrews notes there typically isn't an increase in fatal crashes at this time of year, as there is a big decrease in the number of people on the road. But that gives some people a false sense of security, causing them to let their guard down while driving.

He adds that people need to stay safe on the road, especially with health care and emergency resources already stretched by the pandemic.

"If you're completely healthy, but you've now been in a minor collision and now have injuries, [you] have to go to the hospital and the hospitals are taxed to the max and tired," he said.

"Why would [you] add to that by making a bad decision?"

Mark Andrews worked as a traffic inspector for the OPP for 32 years. He now consults with organizations like the Traffic Injury Research Foundation on traffic safety. (Supplied/Mark Andrews)

'So many different crashes come to mind'

On the National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Road Crashes, Andrews says he thinks of all the needless deaths and what could have been. 

"I've been retired now from the police service for five years and I'm still very engaged in traffic safety. It's a passion because something can be done about it and we can stop this waste of life," he said.

"There's so many different crashes that come to mind, there's so many horrible ones."

And Andrews recalls sitting with people in the aftermath of a crash, as they try to process and understand what just happened to them.

"I remember sitting on a on a float of a semi tractor-trailer that was carrying a huge piece of equipment. And the vehicle he met, the driver was not looking at all where they should have, [and] crossed the center line right into his truck," Andrews said.

"And he killed the driver, who was a dad taking his son to university. And he just sat there and he never did drive again, I don't believe he could. He said, 'I killed him. I killed them.' And you're trying to talk to these people about what happened and what could they have done, all those things that they always ask you."

Andrews says it's memories like these that propel him to get people to concentrate on driving, not be distracted and help put an end to these horrible, needless crashes driven by human error.

"And whether it's weather-related or whether it's equipment-related or it's substance abuse or it's distraction or fatigue, somebody has made a choice, that somewhere along the line, this caused this crash," he said.

"There's a human element in every crash. There is no such thing as 'accidents happen' because there is no such thing as an accident. They're all collisions. And we need to really focus on it so that we don't have to have a national day of remembrance for road crash victims across Canada, because if we didn't have the crashes, we wouldn't have to have this day."

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