Writing Samples

From Danger on Our Roads
Reader’s Digest, feature article

In the predawn hours one January morning in 1996, Steven Fletcher was cruising up Highway 304 in northern Manitoba in his Mercury Sable. Fletcher, a mining engineer headed to work at a gold mine, had made the trip many times without incident. But this time, near Manigotagan, a sudden impact changed his life forever. “A moose went through my windshield, landed in my back seat, then flew over me again when I went into a ditch. The roof was torn right off,” he says.

Fletcher, then 23, was paralyzed from the neck down. Eight years later, he became the member of Parliament for the Manitoba riding of Charleswood-St. James, the first quadriplegic ever elected to the House of Commons. Today, Fletcher still thinks of what might have been.

“My headlights were on, I was wearing a seatbelt, and I was going about 80 in a 90-kilometre-an-hour zone. If I was driving down that road today, I would do exactly the same thing,” says Fletcher. “It was just a freak accident.”

With out-of-the-blue crashes just a sliver of the collisions that cause almost 2,800 fatalities and 222,000 injuries a year in Canada, they get scant notice compared to, say, drunk driving, so the root causes go ignored. That’s changing – good news to people like Ray Marchand, manager of traffic safety and training for the Canada Safety Council. He says conscientious drivers can only do so much. “Most collisions are avoidable if preventive steps are taken.”

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