Canada: Winners in More than Hockey

March 14, 2002
In a 20-year-period, Canadian traffic fatalities dropped by 47 percent, despite the fact the number of vehicles on the road increased by 48 percent.

Over the past 20 years, Canada''s traffic safety record has been second to none, says the Canada Safety Council (CSC).

In December 2001, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released its report on road fatalities that showed Canadian traffic fatalities dropped 47 percent between 1980 and 2000.

"This turnaround was achieved despite a big increase in vehicles and drivers during that time," says CSC President Emile Therien. The number of vehicles went up 48 percent, while the number of licensed drivers rose 37 percent.

Only three OECD member countries experienced more progress: Austria and Switzerland cut the number of traffic deaths by 51 percent and Germany by 50 percent. The average improvement for all OECD countries combined was 20 percent. Britain, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden have the lowest motor vehicle fatality rates - less than seven per 100,000 of population. Canada, with significantly higher vehicle ownership, has a road fatality rate of 10 per 100,000. The average for reporting OECD countries is 12.5.

The OECD data do not correlate motor vehicle deaths with miles or kilometers driven. According to a recent Transport Canada survey, Canadians log 475 billion kilometers a year (over 295 million miles); in other words, the average licensed driver travels over 23,000 km (14,292 miles) annually.

Therien suggests that if kilometers driven were factored in, Canada would likely be number one in traffic safety. He cites reductions in impaired driving as a prime example that traffic safety laws are working. In 1980, half of all drivers killed in crashes were over the legal limit; in 2000, just over one-quarter of all drivers were legally impaired. Other major factors in the reduction of automobile accidents high rate of seat-belt use, safer vehicles, driver behavior and public awareness campaigns.

According to CSC, further progress will hinge on making existing laws work more effectively, rather than making more laws. For instance, a ban on cell phones has been suggested, even though careless driving laws are already in place. Since 1994, road fatalities have dropped by 10 percent while cell phone use has increased five-fold to over 10 million. The evidence does not support calls for a new law, says CSC.

The OECD report credits high tech law enforcement tools such as photo radar and red light cameras for reducing collisions in member countries. However, many Canadian cities and provinces have been reluctant to implement this technology. Although running red lights could contribute to as many as 200 deaths and 13,000 injuries annually, some politicians still view red light cameras with suspicion. Therien believes that universal acceptance of electronic enforcement would enable Canada to make further progress.

"As Canadians we are too humble," he concludes. "Our country is a world leader in road safety. We''re doing a lot of things right."

by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

About the Author

EHS Today Staff

EHS Today's editorial staff includes:

Dave Blanchard, Editor-in-Chief: During his career Dave has led the editorial management of many of Endeavor Business Media's best-known brands, including IndustryWeekEHS Today, Material Handling & LogisticsLogistics Today, Supply Chain Technology News, and Business Finance. In addition, he serves as senior content director of the annual Safety Leadership Conference. With over 30 years of B2B media experience, Dave literally wrote the book on supply chain management, Supply Chain Management Best Practices (John Wiley & Sons, 2021), which has been translated into several languages and is currently in its third edition. He is a frequent speaker and moderator at major trade shows and conferences, and has won numerous awards for writing and editing. He is a voting member of the jury of the Logistics Hall of Fame, and is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.

Adrienne Selko, Senior Editor: In addition to her roles with EHS Today and the Safety Leadership Conference, Adrienne is also a senior editor at IndustryWeek and has written about many topics, with her current focus on workforce development strategies. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics. Previously she was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck?, which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list.

Nicole Stempak, Managing Editor:  Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

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