BC Forest Safety Council

BC Forest Safety Council

November 20, 2006 13:01 ET

Road Safety Summit Report Targets First Nations Road Deaths

PRINCE GEORGE, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(CCNMatthews - Nov. 20, 2006) - A report resulting from a First Nations Road Summit held in northern B.C. on October 12 and 13 cites an alarming number of road deaths among First Nations people - many of whom live in communities that are only accessed via provincial forestry roads.

The author of the report, MaryAnne Arcand, Director of the BC Forest Safety Council's Forestry TruckSafe program, says 25 First Nations communities in B.C. can only be accessed by forestry roads.

"The risks to residents on these forestry roads are being compounded by increased traffic due to the Mountain Pine Beetle, increased oil & gas exploration, and forest agreements being made between government and First Nations, which is turning many bands into logging contractors," says Arcand.

The report quotes BC Injury Prevention Unit research findings, which indicate that mortality rates for First Nations in motor vehicle crashes are almost nine times higher than the provincial average. Alcohol and drugs played a significant role in the deaths of First Nations drivers and passengers, and 61 per cent of drivers who were killed in crashes were not wearing seat belts. Other major contributing factors include speed and weather conditions.

The First Nations and Roads Summit was co-hosted by the Council's Forestry TruckSafe program and RoadHealth - a coalition of provincial agencies in the north including ICBC, RCMP, Commercial Vehicle Safety Enforcement, Ministry of Forests, WorkSafeBC, BC Ambulance Service, BC Coroner's Service, Ministry of Transportation and the BC Forest Safety Council. The programs' common mandate is to reduce fatalities and injuries on B.C.'s roads.

Specific recommendations in the report include better communication between forest companies and First Nations, improved maintenance of forestry roads including dust control, resolution of jurisdictional and funding issues, and resource road driver training.

Arcand says a major step forward will be First Nations involvement in road use, planning and dealing with safety issues, along with participation in safety initiatives sponsored by the RCMP, ICBC, Forestry TruckSafe and Northern Health.

"This is a big step toward promoting safety among First Nations - many of who rely on access to their communities over forestry roads," says Arcand. "We need a coordinated approach to solving many of the issues and problems that can lead to road crashes and a strong program for prevention."

A follow-up meeting will take place in spring 2007 to review progress and identify continuing problems.

The full report is available on the BC Forest Safety Council website: http://www.bcforestsafe.org.

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