Transport Canada's Road Safety Strategy 2015, Less of the same

(May 27) -- Transport Canada's Road Safety Week ended at midnight on Monday. The week saw Canada launch a new 5-year road safety plan. The nation embraced the UN's Global road safety decade and hailed drops in new crash stats. During the week one hundred and fifty-six media stories warned about unsafe driving behaviours like texting, speeding, and drinking.

It sounded good, but with all the honking we missed a few things. 

Consider the big hole in the new safety plan. It's so big giant rigs can drive right on through without slowing down. There is no strategy for trucking safety in Road Safety Strategy 2015!

Are there no trucks on the road? In fact, trucks are in on 20% of the kills, also known as "road user fatalities." The 20% is an estimate because Transport Canada chooses not to break out commercial vehicles in its annual reports.
Back in 2007, the regulators of the biggest industry in Canada, trucking, were told "to accept accountability" to the safety plan. On May 15 in Victoria this shadowy Transport Canada-led group shirked accountability entirely.

We need a plan that includes trucks. It must start with an evaluation of the biggest trucking safety initiative of the last decade. National Safety Code Standard 9, also known as the "hours of service" regulations, limits truck driving time to 13 hours a day, 77 hours a week. The regulations came into effect in 2007. The hours are much longer than US hours. Trucking safety is the only standard road safety measure where the US outperforms Canada. Four years on and there is no information about the impact of the regulations. There is not even a plan to evaluate the impact of the regulations.

There is, as the Canadian Trucking Alliance reported in February, a big trucking safety study. But the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators Standing Committee on Compliance and Regulatory Affairs (CRA) is sitting on the report. It calls on CRA to follow a science-based, open, timely, and collaborative approach. But now that road safety week is out the way, the group of high ranking civil servants and industry lobbyists that regulate trucking safety are expected to get back to sleeping on-the-job.

Even counting the dead is a big problem for Canada. On May 20 (2011), Transport Canada reported 2,209 fatalities in 2009 and Ontario released its most up-to-date statistics, 2008. At their best, Canadian numbers are a year and half old. The data lag makes means the death toll is not news. It slows the analysis of safety initiatives.

As top Ontario cop, the Hon. Julian Fantino released annual stats for OPP-patrolled roads within two weeks of the year's end. Fantino regularly cited the $18-billion annual cost of collisions. Basic data could be and should be real-time. But the immense tragedy of thousands of deaths and the huge costs have not persuaded Transport Canada or any provincial jurisdiction to improve the system.

In fact, Canada's new official road safety strategy altogether abandons a ten-year effort to improve on the timeliness of data. It also drops "hard targets" for crash reductions and offers little more than refinement on existing programs.

The strategy is branded as “Rethink Road Safety to help us achieve our Vision of making Canada’s roads the safest in the world!"

It is less of the same.

A rethink of road safety would ditch the phrase "road safety." The framing is inaccurate. Sitting in a car going eighty kilometres an hour is the most dangerous thing we regularly do. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading killer of children, teens and young adults. By definition, the road is unsafe. There are no accidents. The collateral damage is an inevitable by-product of the system.

There is no question driving can be made more unsafe, but we need to look in the other direction.

A rethink would emphasize risk reduction strategies. It would employ messages like "don't drive," facilitate insurance policies tied to driving time and support less dangerous alternatives like public transit. It would address demand reduction strategies, like making road-users pay for road use, carbon taxes, transferring taxpayer costs like health care and police time to drivers via insurance requirements.

Canada's Road Safety Strategy 2015

Transport Canada supports UN Decade of Action for Road Safety

2009: The most recent official statistics for Canada  

2008: Most recent Ontario statistics 

Trucking regulators told "to accept accountability

National Safety Code Standard 9, Hours of service regulations

The Canadian Trucking Alliance reported in February

Estimates of the Full Cost of Transportation in Canada

Motor vehicle crash-related deaths, the leading killer of children, teens and young adults

New National Road Safety Strategy For Australia