NEWS
11/22/2016 16:01 EST | Updated 11/23/2017 00:12 EST

Driven: Number of deaths from not wearing seatbelts alarm police

Too many people who died in road crashes in Newfoundland and Labrador in 2015 died because they weren't wearing seatbelts, says the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.

Police said when they looked back at the numbers, they were surprised to see how many fatal crashes could have been prevented.

"In 2015 we had 13 fatalities in our jurisdiction and we know that six of those fatalities could have been avoided had the persons been wearing seatbelts," says RNC Supt. Joe Boland.

It's an unanticipated problem that Boland, a police officer of 34 years, is worried about.

'You can only imagine the sight of seeing something like that.'- Joe Boland

"This is something we didn't see coming on our radar. A lot of the stuff that we were looking at was speed, distracted driving, cellphone use, those types of things," he said.

"And then all of a sudden you're completing your investigations and you're noticing that a lot of this hurt and carnage could have been prevented."

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Haunting crash 

Boland has seen more than his fair share of carnage.

One crash from two years ago sticks with him.

A 20-year-old Memorial University student, from the Maritimes, died in a crash while driving to work on a wet, Sunday morning on the Outer Ring Road.

"The car went off the road. It dug in, in the front of the car, which caused her to catapult out through the back window of the car," said Boland.

'It had a traumatic affect on one of our members. He voluntarily left the [traffic] unit.'- RNC Superintendent Joe Boland

"You can only imagine the sight of seeing something like that."

Boland says while she was going under the speed limit, she was going too fast for weather conditions that day and police believe she was texting while she was driving.

Boland says the crash also affected one of his officers.

"It had a traumatic affect on one of our members. He voluntarily left the [traffic] unit. We had to put him elsewhere. In another department.  That was one of too many accidents he had gone to."

"Even though there were a bunch of errors that happened that day that created the collision, if the seat belt had been on we're more than confident that this young girl would still be here."

Enough is enough

Six out of 13 deaths because of unbuckled seatbelts is enough for Boland.

 

For him, from now on, there's a zero tolerance for non-compliance of seatbelt laws, just like when he started as a cop, 34 years ago. He admits police don't issue seatbelts tickets like they used to, but that's changing.

Between January 1st, and November 17th, 2016, the RNC issued 541 tickets to drivers and passengers for not buckling up.

"When I was a young officer in the mid 1980's, when you went on the road you were looking for seatbelt tickets.  It wasn't really acceptable that you would come in and not have issued seatbelt tickets," said Boland.

"Back then you looked at it and said did I sign up for policing to give out seatbelt tickets? But I look at it completely different today. If there's one thing, that ah, you could save a life, prevent people from being a victim of this type of carnage, this type of heartache, and heartbreak, then it's going out making sure that people put on seatbelts."

CBC Newfoundland and Labrador is hosting a special 90-minute public forum on dangerous driving. Be sure to watch Here & Now from 6 until 7 p.m. NT on Nov. 24, and check back to our website, Facebook page and YouTube channel from 6 to 7:30 p.m. NT.