NEWTON — In her small office at the ICBC Claim Centre on 68th Avenue, Karen Klein knows all about public perception.
She knows how difficult it was to sway perception about drinking and driving.
She knows that even after the advent of the breathalyzer, it took years and the constant retelling of accident and death stats for the message to begin sinking in.
And she knows she faces a similar battle going forward with distracted driving. The distracted driver is the second leading cause of car crash fatalities in B.C. – behind only speeding – and that mobile electronic devices are today’s most egregious distraction.
As ICBC’s road safety co-ordinator for Surrey/White Rock and the lead for the provincial distracted driving campaigns – currently in the midst of a March crackdown – Klein mobilizes multiple agencies such as the Surrey RCMP, the Fraser Valley Integrated Road Safety Unit, and various volunteers.
“My main goal is to get the road safety message out so that the risks and consequences of poor driving behaviour is understood,” she said. “We ultimately want to change behaviours, and this can’t be done overnight. We know it takes time and repetitive messaging.”
Klein is accustomed to taking on big challenges and routinely going way beyond the norm. Apart from her “regular” duties as the local road safety co-ordinator, she’s led the provincial “High Risk Driving Campaign” for the past five years.
Indeed, Klein’s been so good at what she does that she was officially recognized in 2014 when she won the Police and Business Partnership Award at the Surrey Board of Trade Police Officer of the Year event.
And just last week, on International Women’s Day, she was up for another trophy at the 2016 Surrey Women in Business Awards.
It was her second consecutive nomination in the Corporate/Leadership category, and her second consecutive near-miss – which is putting her in Susan Lucci territory – but that doesn’t faze Klein.
“I love it that I’m trying to make a difference in my own community,” says the classic overachiever, who lives in Surrey with husband Chris and their three-year-old son.
But Klein’s contributions also extend outside the professional world.
Between 2002 and 2005, she volunteered her public relations expertise with the Canadian Cancer Society on two of their more important initiatives – Cops for Cancer and Relay for Life – where she humbly says she “gained more from that experience than they did.”
More recently, Klein’s life has gone to the dogs. One dog in particular – her whippet named “iluka.”
Through an organization called BC Pets and Friends, Klein began visiting patients at Peace Arch Hospital. But her focus changed in late 2014, when she lost her father to cancer.
“My dad spent just a day and a half in the hospice (White Rock South Surrey Hospice) but it was an incredible experience. I felt I wanted to comfort others in their time of need.”
To that end Klein has since embarked on a stringent period of training through the hospice that would allow her, with iluka, to visit and comfort hospice residents. She expects to begin her new role in April.
Today, however, Klein leaves iluka behind and hits the road, along with various levels of law enforcement, for a one-day mega-blitz on distracted driving.
Stay tuned – we’ll report on that next week.