Canada Road Safety Week, We can do better

A serious effort dedicated to bringing down the
the commercial vehicle kill rate woud help make
our roads less dangerous. 
Canada Road Safety Week runs from May 14 to May 21. Every year the police mark the occasion with increased enforcement, press releases and amusing stories like the one about the driver going 140 km/h while tossing a salad.

The federal government's main contribution is to talk about Canada's plan to make our roads the safest in the world and release its most recent statistics to make the  case.

There is value in road safety week but it masks serious problems. The facts suggest road safety is not a priority for Canadian governments.

Consider the government's Canadian Motor Vehicle Traffic Collision Statistics. This week, if we are lucky, the feds will release stats for 2010. Why not 2011? Why not real-time?

This "data lag" does a major disservice to those interested in a serious road safety effort. How do we analyze the effect of new safety measures? How can we interest the public when all we have are old numbers. Key elements are missing like the amount of driving done in a year. There is nothing about the 19% of collisions involving big trucks. There are no comparisons to other countries.

Media coverage of "road safety" is limited to only the most horrific crashes. The 6 people killed every day in Canada are not news.

Even the money involved does not seem to be a great concern. The annual cost of collisions is estimated at $62.7 billion for 2004 amounts to about 4.9 per cent of Canada's Gross Domestic Product. But because the cost is covered by taxpayers (health care, policing, courts) there is not great hue and cry.

Last year the federal government signalled its disengagement from road safety and, in the recent budget, made cuts to Transport Canada's road safety section.

The Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, the group responsible for Canada's road safety plan met last week in Winnipeg. The CCMTA's budget has also been cut (CCMTA Change Management process).

Last year the group, which is made up of high ranking civil servants and industry lobbyists, put forward a very weak plan for road safety. The plan, which is called, Road Safety Strategy 2015, has nothing in it about trucking safety, no targets and no metrics.

The CCMTA is apparently committed to promoting the strategy but rarely succeeds in generating media coverage. Last week a news conference got zero ink. So far this hear only one story reported on Road Safety Strategy 2015.

The Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators should open up their meeting to the public and the media.

The meetings are full of valuable information including:
- Human Factors report on commercial vehicle safety released
- no action taken on the 281-page Human Factors report and its 34 recommendations
- too busy to review its biggest trucking safety (National Safety Code Standard No. 9) initiative which, effective Jan. 1, 2007, increased weekly truck driving hours
- Ontario is cutting truck inspections
- a plan to make the 80-plus point National Collision Database available online
- the decision to base statistics on vehicle miles driven (the global standard, instead of absolute numbers in Road Safety Vision 2010 or the collisions per 100,000 drivers Ontario standard)
- Statistics Canada has cut annual surveys which may force CCMTA to pay for the data itself
- a plan to reduce pedestrian deaths
- reducing the estimated Value of Statistical Life (VSL)
- Determining Driver Medical Fitness in Canada
- a cradle to grave concept for managing vehicles with electronic files
- drivers licences with radio frequency ID chips
- Commercial Driver Licensing Standards
- red tape and the federal Motor Vehicle Transport Act exemption procedure as it relates to driving hours for truck drivers

Canada's world safety ranking has dropped steadily over the last decade.

We can do better. 

Here are three cheap ways to help make Canada's roads the safest in the world:
- require police forces to share their real time data;
- move the commercial vehicle safety mandate to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada;
- honestly frame road safety, ie being in a car is the riskiest thing most Canadians do.