KRG revs up education, safety awareness for Nunavik drivers
Region still doesn’t require insurance, registration or Quebec driver’s licences
Nunavik, a region that still doesn’t require that vehicles be registered, licensed or insured, plans to ramp up its campaign to improve the skills of its drivers and increase safety on community streets and on the land.
For vehicle drivers, the Kativik School Board is finally offering regular cycles of driver education courses.
While at 16 you can obtain territorial licenses to drive a vehicle in Nunavik, if you want a Quebec drivers’ license, you must take a drivers’ education course accredited by the provincial license and registration bureau, the Société de l’Assurance du Quebec.
Those Quebec licenses are increasingly important for people in Nunavik who want jobs driving vehicles in the region and need to be insured or who want to drive in the South.
Nunavik organizations, like the Kativik Regional Government, already license their vehicles with special “c”-numbered Quebec plates and try to hire licensed drivers to avoid problems with insurance coverage.
Now people can take drivers’ education courses: more than 200 wanted to take courses offered last year in Inukjuak and Kuujjuaq,
And there are still many on the waiting list in those two communities — 30 in Inukjuak and 40 in Kuujjuaq — for future courses.
At their recent meeting, KRG regional councillors approved nearly $450,000 in training money to the KSB to offer drivers’ ed courses to 130 drivers in 2013-14.
During these courses, which will be offered in Inukjuak and Kuujjuaq, students take 24 hours of theory and 15 hours of practice driving over a 12-month period.
They also have access to state-of-the-art computerized driving simulator machines, which allow them to test their driving skills in a variety of situations.
But that’s not the only move under way to improve driving safety in Nunavik.
During visits to all 14 communities planned to take place by June, the KRG wants to plug its “On the Right Path” awareness campaign for Nunavimmiut who drive snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles (which are still allowed on Nunavik streets).
The campaign’s logo: two blue-hued, helmet-wearing drivers, one on an ATV, the other on a snowmobile, on a track that reads “on the right path,” in Inuttitut, English and French, to symbolize sharing the road in a safe way.
The drivers are each wearing helmets — which under Quebec law are supposed to be worn, but are rarely seen in Nunavik.
The KRG said its campaign wants to reduce the number of accidents and injuries in Nunavik, which result from the often-reckless operation of those off-highway vehicles.
And it’s focusing on youth.
Every year, about 50 adults from Nunavik are sent to the Montreal General Hospital’s trauma unit. Many are there due to crashes on ATVs, snowmobiles and other vehicles.
But those most at risk of injury are generally those under 16, who don’t wear helmets and double-up on one off-road machine, a common sight in Nunavik.
Kids in Nunavik generally start driving ATVs at eight and a half years. All they have to do is hop on and drive off, without first earning a “certificate of competence,” which is required in southern Quebec.
The “on-the-right-path” community visits will be backed up with educational promotional material as well as prevention messages on local radio stations.
Education materials include show-and-tell materials designed to appeal to — and scare — young drivers into driving more carefully: they’ll see skulls and spinal columns, x-rays of damage from collisions, and devices like cervical collars that people with injuries must wear.
They’ll also watch a video, produced in Kangiqsualujjuaq, that graphically shows the damages from reckless driving.
This video, recently screened for KRG regional councillors in Kuujjuaq, details how the life of a 12-year-old boy, called “William,” gets altered forever when he hops on the back of a speeding ATV on his birthday. The ATV ends up spinning into a truck.
William is seriously injured, spends four months in the South, and returns home in a wheel chair.
That cautionary tale is no exaggeration: over the past three years 183 children have been injured on ATVs in Nunavik.
Over a five-year period, from 2004-09, doctors at the Montreal Children’s Hospital saw 55 head injuries and 54 fractures among the 143 injured kids who arrived by medevac.