Hay River beat out Fort Simpson as the winner of the territorial government’s Buckle Up NWT campaign to encourage the use of seatbelts in communities outside Yellowknife.
According to the Department of Transportation, audits found that 84 per cent of Hay Riverites are wearing seatbelts, compared to a territorial average of an estimated 75 per cent and Canadian average of 95 per cent.
“It’s a cause that’s near and dear to our hearts,” said Hay River Fire Chief Ross Potter of his department’s involvement in the campaign. “Working as we do with the ambulance, we see the results of not wearing a seatbelt far too often.”
The Hay River Fire Department spearheaded the efforts in the community during the campaign, talking to residents about the contest and encouraging them to buckle up no matter how insignificant the drive.
Potter said the Department of Transportation put out a call to see which fire departments wanted to be involved and Hay River jumped at the chance.
“We see when we go out on ambulance calls the injuries are so much worse when people aren’t using seatbelts properly,” he said. “We’re very concerned with public safety and this was a great way to get the community involved.”
Potter said the local RCMP, both traffic division and regular detachment, were integral to the effort.
“The RCMP have been stellar at checking for seatbelt use and getting compliance,” he said. “We’re all working for the same thing and that’s a safer community.”
The prize for top place includes $5,000 for the fire department and a concert by acclaimed artist Leela Gilday on Sept. 7 at the Hay River golf course.
Potter said that, although he isn’t entirely certain if it’s the department or the municipal administration which will receive the money, he would suggest it be put towards the new fire hall still under construction.
But the fire department’s efforts to educate people about the importance of seatbelt use have not stopped with the winning of the Buckle Up NWT campaign. The department will host a clinic on Sept. 14 aimed at showing people how to install and properly use child seats in vehicles.
“We’ll be out in the afternoon ready to check on seats to make sure they’re properly installed and show parents how to use them,” said Potter, adding firefighters will also be on hand to answer questions about when a child should graduate from a rear-facing car seat to a forward-facing one, and then eventually to a booster seat.
“We’ve offered to go talk at some prenatal classes in town,” he said. “We want to not only help parents see there is really no other way to go, but also to help them get comfortable with the equipment.”
Seatbelt safety is something Leela Gilday supports and she jumped at the chance to be a part of the campaign.
Gilday said she has been in Hay River many times before, but is always excited to come back. This time, however, will be the first time she brings a band with her for a performance.
“I’m super excited and really looking forward to it,” she told The Hub. “I have a new drummer who just joined the band and he’s never been to the Northwest Territories before, so that will be interesting.”
Gilday said, while her band has enjoyed playing in Yellowknife, none of the members have yet been to Hay River and all are eager to see the community.
Admission will be free of charge and tickets can be obtained for the event at town hall or from any member of the fire department.
— Sarah Ladik