• Carmen Marie Fabio

Sobering lessons learnt about speeding


Nicolas Steresco (in wheelchair) speaks to a driver as part of a sensitization campaign at an accident simulation scene in Pointe Claire, jointly staged by Station 5 police and firefighters along with Urgance Santé and members of Think First Foundation sought to educate the public on how speeding can have permanent life-changing consequences.

Seventeen years ago, Nicolas Steresco learned firsthand how life can be forever altered in an instant following a motorcycle accident he blames directly on the fact that he was speeding.“It was a major event for me and my family and my life changed that day,” he said, describing the ‘before and after’ of the accident that left him in an extended coma, suffering a traumatic brain injury and confined to a wheelchair to this day. Trained as an engineer, Steresco, now 42, said he’s no longer able to work in his field and wants to educate people on what could happen to them – and others – if they choose to disregard the rules of the road as drivers. “I was thinking I was Superman and nothing would happen,” he said, “but anything can happen and it will if you’re not aware of the risk you’re taking.”

The September 29 sensitization operation held in conjunction with officers and firefighters from Pointe Claire’s Station 5 and the Think First Foundation promoting the awareness of brain and spinal cord injuries was held at the corner of St. John’s Boulevard and Douglas Shand Avenue between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and effectively portrayed both the scene of a devastating accident and the aftermath that can forever affect human lives.

“We’ve been checking motorists’ speed as they come up boulevard St. Jean,” said Station 5 Socio-community officer Const. Hélène Jubinville, “and after the police talk to them about their speed, they’re also going to listen to someone from the Think First Foundation.” Motorists are then escorted over to an accident simulation in which Montreal firefighters use pneumatic machinery in a demonstration of the extensive damage vehicles, and by extension human bodies, can sustain due to high speeds. “A picture is worth a thousand words,” said Jubinville’s partner Const. Liliana Bellucci describing how the sight of the mangled vehicles and rescue personnel effectively deliver the message. “This operation is having a great impact.”

“Our mission is prevention of brain and spinal cord injuries,” said Think First coordinator Nathalie Auclair of the outreach work the organization does from all levels of schooling to events like Tuesday’s staged simulation. “The consequences of speeding are not necessarily limited to a ticket or a slap on the hand.” Besides speeding, Auclair said other leading causes of devastating injuries of this nature are a result of the use of drugs, alcohol, or more recently drivers texting behind the wheel. Though drivers were spared an actual speeding ticket at the sensitization campaign, they received a preview of speeding’s potential consequences via the simulation and a talk from one of the two men present who suffered their own life-changing injuries following speed-related automotive accidents. “We call them VIPs, or ‘Voices in Prevention’,” said Auclair.

Drivers’ licences are then returned to them inserted into a folder in which their photo is aligned with the silhouette of a human body walking with crutches, further driving home the point of the potential harmful results of speed.

Beaconsfield resident Sean Pothier shared his experiences of being a 22-year-old passenger in a car, not wearing a seatbelt, and the driver running a red light. On the speeding motorists he spoke to September 29, he said most were appreciative. “They never think anything will happen to them,” he said. “But it happened to me and I can’t go back to the way I was before.”

Eight police officers, five firefighters, and a team from Urgence Santé took part in the joint venture. “It’s part of the job but we don’t practice a lot,” said Service de sécurité incendie de Montréal (SIM) Division 2 Operations Chief Ian Ritchie. “This gives a good opportunity for us to improve our communications between departments and for everyone to see what the firemen do.” Ritchie said the exercise offered further training for his team to practice stabilizing compromised vehicles to reduce risk to both accident victims and rescue personnel.

“This event is not just a lesson for drivers but is also an exercise for the police officers,” said Station 5’s new Commander Marc-André Dorion. “We all need to be sensitized to road security. It’s not just about giving tickets but about public safety too.”

By the time the operation had wrapped up at 2 p.m., Over 30 speeding drivers had been stopped and while a very few uncommunicative and uncooperative, most expressed their thanks to the event’s organizers for using the exercise to raise their awareness.

For more information on the Think First Foundation, go to thinkfirst.ca. To see more photos of this exercise, see our Facebook page.