Group seeks to raise awareness about drunk, dangerous driving in La Loche

By Bryan Eneas
January 18, 2018 - 8:27am

northern village is looking to solve two serious problems by telling personal stories in their own language.

The La Loche Community Safety Board wants people to talk about the impacts of both drinking and driving, and dangerous driving in Dene. Stephen King, a member of the safety board, said the idea came forward following an SGI awareness campaign about the impacts of drinking and driving.

“[We thought] maybe we should do something along those lines, only with local people; people who've been affected by drinking and driving, or an unsafe situation using a quad or Ski-doo that has resulted in serious injury or death,” King said.

King said the initial campaign resonated with enough people in the northern village to discuss it amongst themselves and bring it up publicly.

He said if the awareness campaign were to be done in Dene, it might carry even more weight with people in and around La Loche. Not only would it be a familiar language, it would also feature people in the community.

So far no one has volunteered their own stories yet. King said the Community Safety Board would discuss the possibility of approaching people they know personally to ask for them to take part. The group is also looking for someone locally with editing skills to put the videos together.

In order to broach a sensitive topic in the community, the safety board turned to social media. King said the post was seen by many people and he's optimistic there will be a response.

King said people may feel their stories are not important enough to tell. He said he wanted residents in La Loche and the surrounding area to know “all stories are worthy.”

King himself was touched by loss in the early 90s when a recently graduated student passed away in a drinking and driving related accident. She was a non-drinker, but her driver was not.

“It's been with me that way for a long, long time and it frustrates me that people still die this way when it's so unnecessary,” King said. “I want to get the message out there that this is 100 per cent preventable.”

King said the Community Safety Board also wanted to address the life-changing consequences dangerous driving can have through the awareness campaign. He identified texting and driving, and distracted driving as related and prevalent issues. He also said car seat safety could also be improved.

It's not just vehicles on the roads as he'd also like to see off-road safety addressed. King said often times ATV or Ski-doo drivers avoid pursuit from law enforcement by fleeing down trails police can't navigate. He said there's also been local fatalities in the past on both four-wheelers and Ski-doos and he'd like people to realize how dangerous the machines can be.

“You know, here it's not unusual to see children on a quad, and when I say children, I'm talking under 12-years-old,” King said. “There's an adult somewhere who's given that child access, so somehow we've got to convince the community current practises... [are] a threat to the lives of their children and other people.”

For King, the answer to both drinking and driving and dangerous driving comes down to education.

The Community Safety Board has run ATV safety courses alongside the RCMP, where carseats and helmets were given out.

“We would really, really like to see our community members embrace this thinking and say 'a lot of what's happened, a lot of the tragedies that have touched our community could be prevented if we were more civic minded about the safety of our friends, neighbours and relatives.'”


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