Safety is ultimately in your own hands, learn to drive defensively

Dear Editor:

If it were not for the collective focus of our society being on COVID-19 there is another event that would surely be prominent at this time. It is the 2nd year anniversary of the Humboldt Bus Crash and injured Humboldt Bronco Ryan Straschnitzki has launched a lawsuit against all parties responsible for that 2018 crash.

The parties responsible are not just the driver of the truck but also the bus driver as well as others. There is so much more to the events of April 6, 2018 than Jaskirat Singh Sidhu failing to stop at a stop sign. As a trucker myself I have taken a number of Professional Driver Improvement Courses, (PDIC). The fancy name aside, PDIC is extensive training in something that all drivers should know more about and make use of, more than I see drivers doing in my travels: Defensive Driving.

The meaning of Defensive Driving is simple; Preventing a collision despite the (bad) actions of others. When I saw a picture of the wreckage, to me, it was easy to see that the truck had blown through the stop sign and that the bus had collided with the rear trailer of the Super B combination trailer. My first thought was, oh no another black eye for trucking. People that see it as simple; just stop at stop signs and problem solved, are the people that scare me that I share the roads with them. In the theory of a text book that may be so but, in practicality, it is not. Insurance companies exist because humans make errors, it’s the innate human experience. Insurance companies work to try to mitigate (lessen) the risks. They know that the rules of the road, in reality, merely mitigate the risks of cars crashing into each other. We wouldn’t need to wear seatbelts if it were not so and, seatbelts don’t prevent injuries; they mitigate the risk of injury.

People in Kneehill County are familiar with “death corner” on the way to Linden from Three Hills. There was a time when the trees were not trimmed back and this was a total blind corner like the location where the Humboldt crash happened. The trees are trimmed back now which lessens the blindness of this corner and statistically the amount of collisions there as such have been mitigated. I still slow my speed when approaching it, especially if there is another vehicle approaching from the west or east. Anytime I come up to a level crossing, anywhere, and I see another vehicle coming towards the intersection from the other way I always slow. I do not take it for granted that the other vehicle is going to stop until I can see that the driver is aware and is going to indeed stop. Many times in the past two years I have had vehicles whiz out in front of me at level crossings. I have even had this happen several times at “death corner,” once even by a Super B truck combination!! If I had not been doing my usual thing of slowing to 80 km/h I would not have had the time to avoid a collision. By the way, the 80 km/h zone on Hi-way 21 passing Three Hills will mitigate collisions. People who say that they have never inadvertently missed stopping worry me because they are clearly not driving with enough awareness to not be aware that it has happened sometimes to them. That or they are just lying. It happens, it’s a part of the innate human condition.

Accounts report that Glen Doerksen, the Humboldt Bus driver, was driving 119 km/h through the intersection. If you want to get technical, by the letter of the textbook, if he had been going the speed limit, 100 km/h; the bus would not have been there at that moment in time. If he had slowed his speed to 80 km/h, when approaching the blind intersection, he would have put himself in a position to avoid a collision despite the (bad) actions of the other driver. Clearly he was not driving anywhere close to defensively as in PDIC. He shares in the blame for this collision and I have always believed he did. Because he died in the collision it seems unsavoury to have considered this; however, dead or not, the truth is the truth. In PDIC the term accident is never used, only collision. The only non-preventable collision is that with wildlife. It may seem harsh but that is the standard held to.

Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, the rookie truck driver, was put on a destiny that was stacked against him. In Canada immigrants from South Asia are often exploited and thrown into situations in trucking that are way over their heads. Mr. Sidhu had only had his license for three weeks and was out solo driving a flatbed Super B!! The general public do not understand how much the weight difference makes to driving. The average car weighs about 3,000 lbs. An empty Tractor-trailer is about 34,000 lbs, a loaded one is 80,000 lbs, a loaded Motorcoach can be 50,000 lbs while a Super B is over 130,000 lbs!! In any truck driver training course you are trained while driving an empty truck. It is a whole new world driving one that is loaded!! Jaskirat Singh Sidhu had his license for three weeks, was driving a Super B with no training in flatbeds and all that is involved in securing a load in regards to that. The account reports that he was very distracted by concern that his tarp was blowing off, looking in his mirror at it flapping, when he missed the stop sign. How many people miss performing basic traffic regulations of the road everyday, while distracted or not even distracted? Only they are lucky enough that someone else was driving defensively for them and a collision was averted. Or, as is usually the case in rural areas, there just was not someone there at the time to collide with. On rural roads it is easy to assume nobody is coming from the other way because 999 times out of 1,000, so it seems, there isn’t.

This Law Suit by Ryan Straschnitzki seems fair enough to me. At the very least it will highlight that this crash was so much more than someone failing to abide by a fundamental rule of driving. There is so very much more involved in driving a tractor-trailer than just knowing and following the fundamental rules of driving. The layers of responsibility is immense and it takes far more that three weeks of having your license to have a handle on what was entrusted to Mr. Sidhu. There is a systemic problem that led to him having been in the driver’s seat; in way over his head. If Mr. Doerksen had been driving in accordance with PDIC, he may not have been able to avoid a collision altogether but, the death and injuries would have been substantially lessened upon impact. The government can continue to pile on more rules and regulations in an attempt to make you feel safe but, it is an illusion if people don’t drive defensively. Safety is ultimately in your own hands, learn to drive defensively. To quote the COVID-19 slogan; “We are all in this together.”

Sincerely,

Edwin Platt