OPP collision data from the last 10 years shows that even though the number of fatal crashes are falling, the vast majority are preventable, police say.

OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said if drivers changed their behaviours when it came to the so-called “Big Four” causes of fatalities, there would be fewer deaths on Ontario’s roads.

Inattentiveness, speeding, not wearing a seatbelt or helmet and impaired driving remain the four top factors in fatal crashes, he said.

“Those are so preventable,” he said. “It’s sad that we continue to see this type of behaviour exhibited out on the highways and the resulting loss of so many people’s lives.”

In 2005, the number of fatal collisions on Ontario roads patrolled by the OPP were 380. That fell to 265 deaths by 2014.

The “Big Four” fatality causes are also on the decline. According to the OPP, distracted driving has emerged as a serious problem on Ontario’s roads, killing 71 in 2009 and 73 in 2014.

And while impaired driving rates appear to be on a general decline since 2005 when 63 people killed, the numbers bounced between 93 deaths in 2007 and 46 deaths in 2014.

Schmidt said regardless of the rise and fall of the numbers, drunk driving is still a big problem in Ontario.

“It’s not the just the impaired drivers who are killing themselves, they’re often involved in collisions and other innocent people are involved and tragically killed as well.”

Andrew Murie, CEO of MADD Canada, cautioned about reading too much into the impaired driving statistics. His agency uses coroner’s numbers to determine the levels of drunk driving fatalities across the province.

Those coroner’s reports tend to have better information after a lengthy investigation, Murie said.

“The police aren’t doing a full examination,” he said. “They’re just doing it by observation so the numbers go up when it gets to the coroner.”

“Police data is good to look at from trend data (perspective),” he said. “I’ve seen it jump 25% when the coroner is done looking at it.”

But Murie lauded enforcement efforts which have made an impact in impaired driving rates over the years. The story the OPP statistics don’t tell is the lives that are ended or ruined by impaired driving accidents, he said.

“You realize this changes lives,” he said. “Each day, I work with people, I see people, I hear their stories. We’re all impacted by it. You just pray it’s not going to happen to you.”

The OPP uses the numbers to identify “hot-spots” in their patrol areas. They plan enforcement and focus their presence to encourage drivers to obey the rules of the road, he said.

The data shows that overall, the province had nearly 75,000 collisions on OPP-patrolled roads in 2014. That’s up from just over 69,000 in 2009.

Crashes involving animals represent between 15% to 17% of that total every year, a stat that might surprise some city-dwellers, Schmidt said.

“When you’re up north and there are deer, moose and bears and other animals ... that is a big number,” he said.

The numbers also show an increasing amount of collisions involving large commercial transport trucks. Since 2009, those numbers have been increasing, from 4,667 to 6,140 in 2014.

But it’s not always the truck driver at fault, he said.

“When these trucks are involved in a collision, they have a huge impact on highway closures,” he said, pointing to a full closure of Highway 401 after a fatal collision last week.

“It was not the truck driver’s fault at all. He was an innocent victim who was killed because of a driver who was (allegedly) impaired.”

Teresa Di Felice, of CAA South Central Ontario, said the statistics aren’t surprising. The agency runs annual public awareness campaigns to promote safety and this backs up their belief that distracted driving is a major problem, she said.

“It’s not just a distraction of talking or texting on a phone. There’s all kinds of things that cause distractions.”

Felice added drivers need to give themselves enough time so they’re not rushing and taking risks on the road.

Source: Toronto Sun


Last updated on: 2015-02-12 | Link to this post