Column: Driving is not a race to be won

There are two kinds of drivers in the world. What kind are you?

Column: Driving is not a race to be won

I have decided there are two kinds of drivers in the world.

The first sees driving as a shared pursuit – a community effort that works best when all the independent parts are moving toward the same goal.

These drivers understand that communication and co-operation between the various parts is essential to the efficient operation of the larger machine. Losing a few seconds to allow another vehicle to merge into your lane, for example, keeps the overall block of traffic moving. It lowers frustration, thus preventing a possibly rash decision later that might jeopardize you and the other constituent parts.

It has the added benefit of modelling behaviour that might one day earn you back the few seconds you spent allowing the vehicle to merge.

The other kind of driver sees the world differently. Driving is not a team sport, it is an individual effort. It is a race to be won and every vehicle ahead is an irritant that puts you one step farther from the podium. It is a competition between the constituent parts, with success going to those drivers aggressive enough to claim it.

If this sounds a little bitter it’s because I have now become one of the thousands of motorists each year to file an insurance claim with ICBC.

It was an accident that clearly didn’t have to happen. Fortunately, only my vehicle was damaged. But it could have been much worse. The vehicle that ploughed into my rear bumper while I was travelling at highway speed could have sent me and my family spinning into the ditch.

Instead, the incident will only cost me time (and a few new grey hairs).

But it will also cost our already overstressed insurance program money – something that we all pay for eventually.

Indeed, ICBC has already asked for a rate increase this year of nearly five per cent. That’s less than what the crown corporation received last year. However it still means motorists are facing a 10.4 per cent increase over two years.

ICBC says the increase is justified because of the dramatic jump in accidents and subsequent claims. There were 300,000 claims filed in 2015 – 15 per cent higher than 2013.

Not only are there more damage claims being filed, the repair costs are also going up. For example, vehicle repairs rose 17 per cent between 2014 and 2015 for a total cost of $1.36 billion.

Injury claims are also on the increase, climbing 14 per cent from two years ago. Not only is there a personal price to be paid for the 67,300 new injury claims filed last year, in real dollars they cost ICBC $2.4 billion to settle in 2015 alone.

Of course, not all accidents are avoidable. But the majority are caused by things like distracted driving, excessive speed, or driving too aggressively.

These are all behaviours that can be changed. Unfortunately, the change usually comes after an accident. The individual who hit me was apologetic. Hopefully the experience will teach him that driving is not a game; that there are real consequences to a moment’s lack of judgement or inattention.

But that is an expensive way to learn.

Better to see driving as it should be: one of mutual co-operation and respect – where we look out for one another rather than try to beat him or her to the next light.

The 80,000 people who are injured every year on B.C. roads will thank you.

As will the families of the 267 people killed.

Greg Knill is editor of the Chilliwack Progress