Sharron Keller observing motorists' behaviour at the intersection of Kingfisher and Nalabila. (Photo Gerry Leibel)

Sharron Keller observing motorists' behaviour at the intersection of Kingfisher and Nalabila. (Photo Gerry Leibel)

Traffic survey reveals disturbing statistic in Kitimat

One motorist was even using both hands to open a bottle while driving

A traffic survey conducted in Kitimat by the Northern Brain Injury Association over three days in June spotted 68 motorists travelling with children who weren’t properly restrained.

The surveys were conducted on June 26 and June 27 at the intersection of Kingfisher Ave. and Nalabila Blvd., and at the intersection of Haisla and Tsimshian boulevards on June 29.

“I think the most concerning statistic was the number of vehicles with unsecured children, especially small children, with regular seatbelts on in the front seats,” said Northern Brain Injury Association (NBIA) northwest community case manager, Tekah Sabal.

“Childhood brain injuries can lead to lifelong brain dysfunctions, emotional problems and learning disabilities. That is if they are not killed by the impact or the airbag.”

Sabal and volunteer Sharron Keller positioned themselves at the two intersections and counted the number of motorized vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians who travelled through the intersections in two, one-hour periods, in the morning and afternoon on two weekdays, and in two, one-hour periods on a weekend day.

The duo was on the lookout for a number of unsafe behaviours, including dangerous driving (no seatbelts, unsafe driving, unsecured children and distracted driving), unsafe pedestrian behaviours (jaywalking, failing to look, unsafe crosswalk use) and cycling behaviours that could lead to injury, primarily brain injury (riding without helmets, failing to stop and unsafe use).

In the six hours that the survey was conducted over the three days, the duo counted 3,096 vehicles.

“We spotted 129 unsafe driving practices like rolling through – or just driving through – stop signs, speeding through the intersections, improper turning, proceeding through the intersection with a pedestrian in it and stopping unnecessarily in a merge.

“There were 141 distracted drivers. The most common distractions were loose dogs in the vehicles – some on drivers’ laps – and eating, drinking or smoking while driving. We also counted 20 motorists using cellphones.”

The majority of motorists observed with unsecured children were spotted at the four-way stop at the intersection of Kingfisher and Nalabila.

It’s not all bad news, however – Sabal said Kitimat can be proud of its cyclists and pedestrians.

Only 15 out of the 67 cyclists didn’t have helmets on, and only 14 people out of 136 who crossed the intersections didn’t take precautions while walking.

The NBIA was asked to conduct the survey by several Kitimat interest groups, companies and organizations, including Kitimat’s seniors, the District of Kitimat, Coast Mountain School District and LNG Canada.

“They are interested in seeing what the safety snapshot is now compared to what it will be in the next three-to-five years. Perhaps these statistics can prompt some preventative or corrective actions to make Kitimat a safer place to drive, walk and ride,” said Sabal.

The NBIA already conducts the survey in five municipalities in northern B.C., making Kitimat the sixth municipality to do so.

“It’s part of the NBIA’s injury prevention mandate – the purpose is to get a snapshot of the road use behaviours of British Columbians in those cities in order to identify areas of need for more injury prevention education and to raise awareness for possible changes or improvements to the intersections,” added Sabal.

The data collected during the surveys is also made available to organizations like the RCMP, the ICBC, city councils, school districts and steering committees in those communities.

Sabal said the surveys aren’t always mundane – the observers also make note of any interesting, outrageous or strange anomalies to keep themselves entertained.

During the Kitimat survey, Sabal saw what she thought was Fozzy the Bear from Sesame Street driving through the Haisla and Tsimshian intersection – it was, however, just a shaggy dog in the passenger seat of a right-hand drive vehicle.

“We also saw another guy who should be on America’s Got Talent – he was opening a bottle with both hands while merging into traffic.”

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Kitimat Northern Sentinel