Auto Service World
Feature   May 1, 2004   by CARS Magazine

Heroes without knowing it

When NAPA trainer Dexter Draper jumped into Ottawa’s Rideau Canal to rescue a drowning woman last fall, it probably wasn’t the first life he’d saved.

Draper was on a cycling trip when he came across a hysterical woman on a bridge. When he realized someone was tangled in the weeds, face down, not moving, he jumped in without a second thought.

After bringing the woman to shore and clearing her lungs of water, he worked hard to save her life – administering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation for many minutes until she began breathing again on her own.

"I was pretty elated," he recalls. "I thought, well, I did something right today."

It was an act of heroism to be sure, and he rightly wears the title of hero for his quick reaction. But having been an automotive technician for nearly 20 years, there are potentially hundreds of people out there who probably owe him a debt of thanks for keeping them safe.

Think that’s a stretch? I’m not so sure, given the dependence of modern society on private transportation, the number of vehicles on public roads, and the speed at which they routinely travel.

Everyone’s been in a car that’s had a close call before, where the brakes were pounded hard, or where quick, decisive steering avoided catastrophe. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that as automotive technicians we play a very important role in keeping people safe on the roads. And I know shop owner and licensed technician Jay Douglas would agree. During a visit to his shop in Campbellcroft, ON recently, Douglas told me he believes if doctors get big bucks because they deal with life and death on a daily basis, technicians should get a pay raise.

"You don’t think technicians prevent deaths every single day? How about when a brake line bursts?" he said. "How about when a fuel line ruptures, and people get immolated? How about when faulty tie-rods lead to wheels falling off? How about when brake stopping distance disappears because the brake pads have been worn down to metal-to-metal and there’s very little co-efficient of friction. You don’t think I deal with life and death? I deal with life and death every day."

Jay Douglas may never have pulled a drowning woman out of a canal, and maybe you haven’t either. But there’s an argument to be made that you’ve prevented your share of deaths just the same, just by doing your job. When you put a car back on the road that came in with dangerously worn brakes, or thread-bare tires, or chassis components that were about to give out, you may have prevented an accident on some road somewhere. You may have saved the life of a pedestrian, or a passenger, or your own customer. And you’ll never know it.

Dexter Draper is a hero, and he can look proudly on his actions that October morning last year. But, in a professional sense, I think we’re all cut from the same cloth. And we can all look proudly on our actions, every single day.

Allan can be reached toll-free at 1-866-222-6787. Or e-mail

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1 Comment » for Heroes without knowing it
  1. says:

    This is a great competition of technician skills, is it possible to invite schools in the Caribbean to this competition ?
    There are basically two technical vocational school training young person at technician level one is N.E.S.C. National Energy Skill Centre and M.I.C. Metal Industries Company, being a previous instructor for nesc the level of the competition will require people who have graduated from the school with certification, in our country case, but maybe you guys can contact the organization of my country to encourage their entrance into the competition .

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