Few things cut so deeply into a community as the loss of young life.
When two young men died last weekend after their truck went off an icy road and plunged into the Fraser River, it was an incident that also resonated in White Rock and South Surrey – just as it did all across the Lower Mainland.
Sunday’s incident – the two high school grads were returning from 18th birthday celebrations for one of them – took place in Chilliwack. Only last year, three young men were killed on Highway 1 west of Hope when their vehicle left the road. But no one can doubt that both crashes – every parent’s worst nightmare – could just as easily have happened here.
The truth is, we have had more than our share of incidents in the past where the potential of a young life was stolen, just on the edge of adulthood, by a traffic accident. Too many families in our community remain scarred – emotionally, if not physically – by similar tragedies.
Last year, a woman had a lucky escape in Surrey when a truck driven by a 17-year-old male smashed into a bus stop where she was waiting. But a similar incident, in which a Jeep driven by a 17-year-old girl also plowed into a bus stop, ended the life of 22-year-old Evan Archibald.
According to B.C. Automobile Association statistics, roughly 54 young people will die each year in motor-vehicle crashes. Thousands more sustain injuries that can affect them for the rest of their lives.
That car crashes are the leading cause of death among young people should come as little surprise to anyone who reflects honestly on their own adolescence. Most adults can recall times when they did dangerous things; put themselves and their friends at risk.
Those stories need to be shared, too, to remind anyone who will listen of the awesome power that a motor vehicle represents – the power to help, but also the power to cause harm.
Driving is an immense responsibility that even seasoned drivers take for granted. The vehicles are comfortable; the ride is smooth. However, the physics remain immutable.
Nothing will bring back the lives lost on that icy road Sunday morning.
But the tragedy offers an opportunity to have a conversation – with ourselves and the people we love – about the risks that exist every time we turn on the ignition.