Editorial: Understanding what was lost

Daniel Shaffert wasn’t famous. Unless you were a friend, a relative, a classmate or a coworker, it’s unlikely you would have heard his name until now.

So why have we devoted front page space to tell Daniel’s story? Why talk to his parents, siblings and close friends, who are now mourning his loss?

We did it because we felt it was important that people understand just what was lost — to paint a three-dimensional picture of a son, brother, friend, uncle and fishing fanatic, who was preparing for a career as an electrician.

We wanted to point out that all of that is now gone, and that his family and friends are left with a gaping wound that will never really heal.

Daniel wasn’t a number. No one is.

Yet we rack up statistics each year, announcing how many lives were lost on Lower Mainland roads. We are told — and report — the age and gender of each victim. Often, that’s all we ever learn.

We don’t yet know for certain why the car Daniel was riding in collided with another vehicle that night in early February, ending his life.

At the time of the crash, police said alcohol and road conditions were two possibilities that were being examined.

The point is, his death was, in all likelihood, avoidable. These things usually are.

Whether it’s speeding, running a red light, being distracted by a phone, (or something else) driving too fast for conditions, taking unnecessary chances, or impairment, almost every crash that claims a life could have been avoided, using  the lessons we learned — and were tested on — before being given the legal right to drive.

Unforeseen mechanical problems or a serious medical event are exceptions, but they’re rare.

More often than not it’s a bad decision — or a bad habit — that ends up having irreversible consequences.

Our hope is that reading Daniel’s story and getting even a small sense of all that can be lost in an instant, will lead someone out there, at some point, to make a better decision.