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Highway driving and phone use is lethal combination

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RM of Macdonald fire chief Ken Langlois knows without a doubt that mixing highway driving and cell phone use is a potentially lethal combination.

"I personally pulled a phone out of a dead person’s hand this year," he said.

Despite a publicity campaign by Manitoba Public Insurance on the dangers of texting and calling while driving, and an increase in the fine levied if you’re caught using a phone while driving, the problem seems to be getting worse, Langlois said.

And the higher speed limits on highways serve to increase the risk of a fatal accident happening to a driver who’s distracted by their phone.

With the relatively low cost of hands-free mobile devices, he said, there’s no excuse for drivers to take their hands off the wheel to hold a phone to their ear or, even more dangerous, to take their eyes off the road while typing out a text message.

With three of Manitoba’s major highways located within the municipality, the RM of Macdonald’s volunteer firefighters have never been busier. Langlois said the department’s call volume has jumped from about 15 to 20 calls per year to 150 to 180 calls.

"Every year’s been a record year for us," he added.

This increased demand means volunteers are required to spend more time responding to calls.

Langlois said the department is looking for additional volunteers. While it’s ideal if a volunteer already has emergency response training, they are also willing to train new recruits.

Looking for street addresses

Headingley fire chief Doug Hansen said about three-quarters of the calls to his department relate to medical emergencies. When someone’s life is in danger, he and his volunteers want to get to the person as quickly as possible, but if they can’t find a street address, precious time is wasted.

He asks that all residents in the municipality make sure their street numbers are clearly displayed even if their homes are under construction.

As well, he cautions people to think before they burn yard waste this fall, as it’s easy for fire to spread, especially in windy conditions.

Think before dialing 911

The main concern for the RM of St. Francois Xavier volunteer firefighters is having to respond to what fire chief George Dayton calls unsubstantiated calls.

"Callers might not realize that they’re getting 15 to 20 volunteers called in from work or bed in the middle of the night," said Dayton. He asks that local residents be sure an emergency is happening before they phone.

He’s pleased to report the municipal fire department has enough volunteers, and that so far, there haven’t been any problems related to careless fall burning.

"I’ll give kudos to all residents in our RM," he said.

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