Hundreds, maybe thousands, of people are alive today because of the Kelowna District and Safety Council.
Even more have ridden their motorcycle safely over every kind of terrain, watching for hazards, wildlife and especially motorists, because of what they learned at courses taught by the charitable, non-profit organization.
KDSC was one of the first organizations in the province to teach motorcyclists how to ride safely.
Some long-time bikers have said they doubted whether they could do what people who have never ridden before are taught on the first day of the learn-to-ride course.
You can check the teaching and the learning any Saturday in the Rutland Secondary parking lot. Sunday, check the parking lot across from Orchard Park mall at the corner of Springfield Road and Dilworth where the Farmers’ Market is set up on Saturdays.
Through all the earth-shattering changes since the 1980s— from hairstyles to cellphones — KDSC instructors have been teaching in those parking lots every weekend from April to September distilling their wisdom into the scared and the over-confident.
And on bikes and equipment provided by KDSC, which will also set up your road test with ICBC and lend you a bike to take it — if you get the gold package. (There is bronze, silver and gold versions of their training.)
“The society is constantly forced to seek funding from grants and donations, because public safety is a largely unprofitable enterprise that people take for granted as the work of governments,” said KDSC instructor Bill Downey.
“Fees are not an adequate revenue stream even to buy and maintain a fleet of bikes with contemporary (rather than basic and conventional) safety equipment, let alone to pay for the many hours of study and research that some of us put in to inform both the course and the public.”
On average, 33 motorcyclists die every year in B.C. and 1,600 injured in 2,400 accidents. That must cost ICBC, and you, a whack of money, but the pain and suffering to victims and their families is incalculable.
And this year, the provincial government has been re-working the rules and guidelines to get ICBC out of the red, including jacking up your premiums.
Here’s an idea that might save them millions: support KDSC and other organizations that teach road safety.
(KDSC teaches learn-to-drive courses as well.)
ICBC regulates, but doesn’t make financial contribution to, the certified courses; instead KDSC relies on public membership and donations to provide safety training and support.
Wouldn’t it make sense for the government and ICBC to support accident-prevention and safety conscious societies like KDSC? Even in the metric era, an ounce of prevention is still worth a pound of cure.
We benefit every time a life is saved or an accident prevented because ICBC doesn’t have to pay out millions, and increase premiums to cover their losses.
Maybe it is up to us to ensure that KDSC has enough money to keep its fleet on the road and its instructors in parking lots, teaching people how to ride safely, and stay alive.
Fewer accidents, fewer injuries, fewer deaths not only affect ICBC’s bottom line, but also ours. If the Crown corporation isn’t losing money, maybe premiums won’t go up.
If you care about road safety — it is your life and the lives of your loved ones — write your MLA, write a letter to the editor and suggest the government and/or ICBC financially support KDSC.
Then, write a thank-you letter to KDSC for making the roads a little safer for you and your loved ones.
It would be a fitting tribute during Motorcycle Awareness Month.
Ross Freake is a former editor of The Kelowna Daily Courier.