ICBC has "Fatal Vision" for Highway 99
Although it's been proven that every drink of alcohol you take impairs your vision and reaction time, many drivers still believe that they can keep it together enough to steer their way back home. That's because alcohol generally impairs your judgement, too.
As a result, impaired driving remains one of the major causes for crashes in B.C., killing more than 150 people on average each year and injuring thousands more.
To drive home the idea that even the slightly inebriated should put the keys away, ICBC is touring the province with "Fatal Vision" goggles. The goggles can simulate blood alcohol levels of 0.08, which is considered impaired under the Criminal Code of Canada, and 0.17, which is twice the legal limit. They narrow your focus, screw with your depth perception and slow down your reaction time.
"They also make people act drunk, staggering around and laughing," says Sam Thiara, ICBC's Regional Co-ordinator for Loss Prevention. "It's pretty amazing the reaction you get. People tell us it's just like being drunk."
While hundreds of skiers raced from Peak to Valley on Friday and Saturday, the ICBC booth was visited by hundreds of participants who wanted to try on the goggles and take the Fatal Vision challenge — trying to sit down in a chair. It's harder than it looks. Kind of like driving the Sea to Sky Highway...
"Going from Whistler to the city or the city to Whistler on Highway 99 is hard enough when the conditions are good, but after a long day of skiing and a couple of beers, it can be a tough situation driving back," says Thiara. "You really have to be on your toes and in control of your vehicle at all times. Don't drink and drive and don't get into a car with anybody that has been drinking. Call a cab, call a friend. Just stay away from the car."
While people were fumbling around for the chair, ICBC agents toured the Creekside parking lot, looking for cars that were unlocked, had the keys in the ignition, or had valuables in plain view. If the agents found something, they'd leave the driver a note under the wiper that warned the driver that if they had been real thieves, they're possessions, they're stereo, or even their car, would be gone right now.
"We're trying to get the message out there that car thefts and break-ins are more common than people realize," says Thiara. "It's not something a lot of people give much thought to, and that's exactly what the thieves are counting on. We make it easy for them."
Every year, ICBC pays out more than $150 million to cover the costs of auto crime, and their clients pay millions more in deductibles. Much of this could be prevented if drivers took the necessary precautions, says Thiara.
ICBC and municipal road clearing crews testing new de-icing measures
In addition to impaired driving and anti-theft programs, ICBC also distributed information on snow tires, safe driving and the measures that the province is taking to make Highway 99 safer for drivers.
One initiative is a new anti snow and de-icing spray that is a non-toxic alternative to salt, more effective at lower temperatures, and easier to clean up than sand.
"You can tell where they're laying it out," says Keith Pollock, the ICBC Claims Centre Manager for Squamish and Whistler. "The highway seems drier than normal, it looks whiter than normal, and there's no ice anywhere to be found."
The active ingredient in the spray is Magnesium Chloride. One truck has already been converted to test the spray.
If it works as well as early test results indicate, insurance premiums could drop for area residents.
"The common misconception is that we charge premiums based on the number of accidents that occur in an area. It's actually based on the number of accidents that occur to the residents of an area. If somebody from Burnaby gets in an accident in Squamish, that figures into the Burnaby numbers, not the Squamish numbers.
"If this spray can reduce the number of locals getting into bang-ups on local roads, the local premiums will go down as a result," says Pollock.