Vancouver Coastal Health's 2019 Vision Zero Seed Grant supported First Nations, municipalities, and regional districts in promoting road safety and working towards eliminating road-related fatalities and/or serious injuries. One of our Vision Zero-funded projects was On the Straight and Narrow, a project led by Wuikinuxv Nation, to promote road safety and create change in their community.
Wuikinuxv Nation is a small, remote Indigenous community located in the heart of the Central Coast of British Columbia. A lack of road signs and other infrastructure make vehicle collisions an unfortunate, common occurrence there, and a death in the community due to drinking and driving shook everyone to the core. Community members decided to take matters into their own hands and work together to increase road safety by posting safety signs and increasing overall community awareness. Wuikinuxv Nation Health Director and community champion MarLou Shaw connected with Bree Beveridge, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) Aboriginal Health Lead, and communicated the community's vision. MarLou was encouraged to apply for a VCH Vision Zero Seed Grant.
Wuikinuxv's application was successful so Danielle Rawls, VCH Injury Prevention Lead with Trauma Services at Vancouver General Hospital, and MarLou began to work together toward their collective mission of eliminating road-related fatalities and/or serious injuries. The VCH Vision Zero Seed Grant enabled a multi-pronged and community-based approach, through which Wuikinuxv Nation addressed road safety – installing road safety signs and engaging with community members to develop an ongoing community-led road safety awareness program that includes the first-ever First Nations chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (FN MADD).
"Our vision is to have zero fatalities. Zero drinking and driving. Zero problems in this area. Vision zero." stated MarLou.
Creating Road Safety Signs for the Community
The community identified key locations to post speed limit and stop signs, the absence of which was a prime reason for speeding and collisions.
With the Vision Zero funding, Danielle and MarLou ordered and shipped 30 stop signs and traffic signs that enforce the community speed limit of 15km/hour. The signs are bilingual – English and the Oowekyala language. Children in the community also designed signs promoting road safety and awareness. These were printed on metal plates and will also be installed in the pre-determined locations.
This project would not have been possible without consistent communication and commitment to collaboration between VCH staff and Wuikinuxv community members.
Community Awareness and Organizing to Prevent Impaired Driving
Due to an increased interest in promoting road safety, the Wuikinuxv community decided to take additional steps to create an ongoing awareness program within the community. They started the first-ever First Nations chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (FN MADD). The funding and support provided by VCH not only helped the community successfully establish this chapter but also helped them to promote road safety through awareness events, posters and community-led initiatives.
This project has been very close to home for MarLou, as she is not only passionate about saving lives in the community but she lost her brother to a vehicle crash, in which someone was driving under the influence. "This [process] has really helped me heal on a personal level. It's also allowing us [as a community] to do something about it. That is to make positive change and to make our community a happier and safer place for all." MarLou added.
A Model for Future VCH Collaborations
The relationship Wuikinuxv Nation has with VCH is an example of a very strong partnership that allows all parties to bring their experience and skills to the table and use them in the best way possible.
"The ability to work alongside MarLou and the Wuikinuxv Nation has been such a positive experience. I am so grateful that we had the initial support of Bree Beveridge, Aboriginal Health Lead with VCH, to facilitate this relationship", explained Danielle Rawls. "The work we are doing in this community regarding road safety is so important in terms of injury prevention. Speed is a causal factor in many motor vehicle crashes and reducing speed is a key principle of Vision Zero. We know speed limits under 30km/h improves survivability if a collision were to occur, even compared to 40km/h speed limits."
This project exemplified VCH's mission of promoting social connectedness through community-level collaboration and building the capacity of community members to decide, develop and lead their own health promotion initiatives. It also demonstrates positive, community-based efforts towards the Vision Zero goal of eliminating road-related fatalities and/or serious injuries. VCH has been fortunate to support Wuikinuxv in their community-centric cultural approach to addressing road safety, and looks forward to future collaborations.
To learn more about VCH road safety grants, visit: http://vghtrauma.vch.ca/injury-prevention/road-safety/vision-zero-seed-grants/