Why is the onus always on the driver?

Last week, SafeDrives wrote about a horrific accident that resulted in the deaths of two young boys. When it was posted to social media, people responded in a strange way. They said the City of Mississauga should’t be asked to spend money and invest in safety mechanisms “to safeguard against a driver’s stupidity.”

I’ve been seeing a lot of this lately. Pedestrians should wear brightly coloured jackets so they are visible to drivers. Drivers shouldn’t be speeding or listening to music while in a moving vehicle. That cyclist should have been wearing reflectors. It’s their fault for being irresponsible, right?

But where does the onus lie when a safety mechanism — something that was meant to protect and alleviate some of the damage done during an accident — doesn’t function properly, resulting in a serious injury or worse, a fatality.

I would like to ask all of these complainers to imagine driving to an intersection, going the speed limit of 60 km/hr, and hitting some black ice. The ice makes the car swerve, it’s spinning out of control, your brakes suddenly don’t work, and all of a sudden you crash through a safety mechanism and into a pond. How would you like it if your injuries were blamed on your stupidity — you were driving the speed limit when everyone knows you should be driving more slowly in the winter to accommodate black ice.

SafeDrive is not saying that drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists shouldn’t take the blame for accidents. But, we do acknowledge human error. Some things are beyond our control. Accidents will happen. And while the onus will always be on drivers to drive the speed limit and not text or drink while operating a vehicle, municipalities should still be doing everything they can to ensure the roads are safe.

We can’t afford to be nonchalant about fatalities. We can’t simply place the blame on the victim and go on with our daily lives. We need to look at all elements of a car accident, and that includes whether or not the safety hardware on the road functioned as it was supposed to. If a guide rail could have stopped the car from plunging into the pond, why not talk about it it?

If a mechanism can save a life, surely it’s worth an investment?

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