February 21st, 2019

Gov’t driver testing a long time coming

By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on October 10, 2018.

A tragic highway crash over the weekend reminds us once again. If we want to reduce deaths and injuries on our roads, we must have common-sense road laws – and enforce them.

Eighteen people on their way to a birthday celebration and two pedestrians in New York state became the victims, apparently, of a driver without the proper licence at the wheel – and a vehicle that had been ordered off the road.

State inspectors recently declared the stretched van was not roadworthy, but let the company drive it away after it failed inspection. Just a month later, we see what happened.

But we don’t need to look that far to see people killed, or maimed for life, as the result of weak laws or inadequate enforcement. That’s why we welcome news that the Alberta government is taking over responsibility for testing all drivers. For nearly 20 years, we’ve been the only province with a completely privatized road test system.

And with so many private operators in the business of testing drivers and issuing licences, it’s not difficult to see the possibilities of inconsistency, favouritism or worse. Alberta’s large trucking firms, among others, have sounded the alarm about poorly trained drivers at the wheel of highway trucks run by marginal operators.

To fly an aircraft, conduct a train or drive a school bus, Albertans need to learn all the safety rules and pass rigorous exams, at the desk and on the road. To be driving an 18-wheel rig on Alberta highways, we should expect no less.

“Albertans deserve a system for road tests that meets high standards for being fair, consistent, accessible and trustworthy,” says Brian Mason, the province’s transportation minister.

“A government road test system will ensure high standards for safe, consistent, reliable service across Alberta.”

We trust it will. Indeed, that’s why we have government agencies responsible for our safety and well-being: elevator inspectors, electrical inspectors, restaurant and food store health inspectors, many more. Our lives may depend on their integrity and competence.

But when it comes to ensuring our highway vehicles are safe, it’s obvious more enforcement is required. Do you remember how many trucks, trailers and related equipment were pulled off the road in and around Lethbridge earlier this year?

When transport inspectors set up check stops, it’s astounding – and frightening – to see how many individuals or companies disregard our safety laws. Maybe we need tougher laws, and more severe penalties.

But what we most definitely need is more highway safety enforcement – not just police officers with radar guns, but more safety inspectors checking the drivers and vehicles that use our highways.

It’s not just New York state that needs more enforcement, and more teeth in its laws. Many Canadian families have suffered tragic losses as well.

And with the spectre of driverless highway trucks on the horizon, it’s becoming imperative that government agencies be given all the powers they need to ensure those automated rigs don’t create more mishaps and mayhem on our roads.

Comment on this editorial online at https://www.lethbridgeherald.com/opinions/.

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