Having occasion to travel between Twillingate and St. John’s every New Year’s, I never fail to observe the highway sign on the Trans-Canada Highway that gives the number of highway fatalities during the course of the year.
Last year the number was 33 and this year the sign said 26. Not counting the two individuals who tragically lost their lives recently on the Northern Peninsula Highway, approximately 60 individuals have lost their lives on our highways during the past 24 months.
Like any parent and grandparent, it is a source of great concern and worry for me any time that my children and grandkids are travelling on our highways, as I am acutely aware of the great risk presented by a variety of potential road hazards.
I am concerned, however, that the vast majority of expressions of concern to the various media involves only the hazard presented by moose on the highway.
A stranger to our province, listening to the open-line shows, would very quickly come to adopt an opinion that there were moose on every turn and that the majority of tragic accidents are caused by moose on the roadways. In actual fact, by focusing exclusively on the potential for a moose accident, those individuals who purport to be attempting to save our motoring public from harm may actually be diverting attention away from other factors that in effect result in over 95 per cent of fatalities on the highways.
In fact, as tragic as they are for the families concerned, my research leads me to conclude that fatalities involving moose collisions accounted for less than five per cent of highways deaths over the past two years, yet generated perhaps 95 per cent of discussion on the open line shows concerning the hazards facing drivers.
As a moose hunter and one who values our great wildlife resources, it pains me to see the provincial government basing their moose licencing policies on the number of disparaging calls to the open-line shows labelling the magnificent moose as nuisances that, in fact, have no right to exist on the island, not being native to Newfoundland. Last time I checked, we were not native to this island either, and I for one do not want to add to our disgraceful legacy of exterminating things that bother us in the least by eliminating this great wildlife resource.
In fact, there are many things we can do, as drivers, to lessen our chances of a moose/vehicle collision, and it is about time that the discussion turned to other things that put our children at risk, such as drivers whose tires resemble bologna skins or those who speed along when three inches of slush covers the roadway as if it were a sunny day in August.
As for moose, I want my grandchildren to have the opportunity to live in a province rich with wildlife — a source of food, both for the body and the soul.
David Boyd writes from Twillingate.