Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Near misses

I didn't mention this earlier, but then I read News North this morning and was reminded of it...a man died outside of our apartment building a week ago on Sunday.

We were sitting down eating supper when we noticed a lot of flashing lights outside. When we looked out, there was a large crowd, emergency vehicles and one badly banged up snowmobile. The News North story repeats much of what I've heard, so I have no problem mentioning those facts, although I'll omit some of the rumours I've heard. Essentially, the guy on the snowmobile shot across the intersection, apparently trying to get across before the oncoming SUV. He didn't pull it off. And as what often happens when a snowmobile and SUV collide, the snowmobile lost.

The driver also wasn't wearing a helmet.

In the story an RCMP officer says he's astonished more snowmobile/car accidents don't happen each year. So am I. I count myself lucky if I go the winter and manage to only nearly miss two snowmobiles.

If I might brag a moment and risk the gods wrath, I'm not a bad driver. I've been doing this 22 years and I've had two accident, both within six weeks of getting my driver's licence (yes, my father wanted to kill me). I've had one moving violation in that time...failure to come to a complete stop in a mall parking lot. And yes, I'm still pissed off with that one. But I'm always happy to assist the Ottawa police in making their monthly quota. So I like to think I know what I'm doing when I get behind the wheel.

But man, every winter I'm slamming on the brakes or Cathy is yelling at me to watch out and I just barely manage to avoid creaming someone on a snowmobile. The most recent example was in January when I was turning onto Cathy's school parking lot. Out of the corner of my eye I caught some movement and slammed on my breaks. Two seconds later a snowmobile barrelled in front of me and zoomed across the school's parking lot. Because a school parking lot is not going to be a busy place at lunch hour, so feel free to zip along at warp speeds.

And it scares the hell out of me every time. And not because I'm worried about damaging the vehicle or that we might get hurt.

It is because of the utter certainty, in each case where this has happened, that I will kill the person on the snowmobile. They're going to fast, the truck is too solid and, in some cases, like the guy in the accident that I mentioned above, they're not wearing helmets.

And you know what? I guess I'm a self-centred bastard because I don't want to have to try and live with myself if I accidentally kill somebody. It might not be my fault, but that's still going to be hard to live with.

The officials in the story are right. There's a lot more cars kicking around Iqaluit right now. We're probably unique in the arctic for the volume of cars having to interact and play nice with snowmobiles. And I don't know what the solutions are. You would think somebody dying in an accident might provide a jolt to other snowmobile users around town, but I kind of doubt it. Nor am I going to be crazy enough to suggest banning their use within the city limits, because that's not happening. Besides, for some people, these machines are needed because they're hunters and driving through town is their only option. I understand that.

Not all snowmobilers are bad drivers or behave in a reckless manner. It's just a few, but as always, it's enough to make things occasionally very scary. Once, in my more cynical youth, I would have just said this was God's way of thinning out the gene pool. Yeah, I was a big fan of the Darwin Awards for awhile. Not so much any more.

So if any one has any bright ideas on how to avoid killing someone on a snowmobile in Iqaluit, I'm open to it. Because other than more public education, I'm at a loss on what else they can do.

Last Five
1. What - Brendan Benson
2. Angel of Harlem - U2
3. White light - Gorillaz
4. Alphabet Street - Prince
5. Train in vain (live) - The Clash*


The Perfect Storm said...

My pet peeve around cars are people who walk behind you, just as you begin backing up.

I've yet to witness the result, but I freak everytime I think I've checked all angles and then they choose that next moment to flash into view inches off my rear bumper while I start rolling my ton+ vehicle backwards.

I often wonder what their last words to me would be while they are pinned to the ground under my all season tires: "Don't worry. It was worth it. I've saved at least 10 seconds everytime I've done it in the past. By the way - you should get that muffler checked."


Anonymous said...

There is a startling lack of vehicular awareness up here, which given the relative dearth of vehicles until recently isn't that surprising. I usually count several near misses each winter on snowmobiles, often with hardly a backwards glance from the operator.

When I lived in Thompson MB they had a very good system. The similarities would be that it was an isolated community with a lot of snowmobiles. There was more urban planning to the community however and a lot more vehicles as it was on a road system and had about 3 or 4 times the population of Iqaluit.

In simplest terms a by-law restricted the routes that snowmobiles could operate on within the city AND where they could cross roads. Road crossings were (if I remember correctly) well marked and had stop signs for the snowmobiles. Everything was laid out so that snowmobiles could get out of the road system and the road system's way.

I know it it would be way harder to implement there, but still something that they should consider. At least funnel the crossings to certain places.

Anonymous said...

I found your comment about "helping the Ottawa police meet their monthly quota" really amusing.

A friend of mine was stoped on the TCH years ago and he actually mentioned to the cop; "I suppose you have reached your quota."

Without mising a beat, the RCMP officer said; "Actulaly I can write as many tickets as I like!"

Too funny!!

Anthony Roy