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BEHIND THE WHEEL: Traffic safety must be top of mind


The Canadian Transportation Safety Board says 160,000 car accidents occur each year in Canada and that results in eight fatalities a day, on average.
Transport Canada says 160,000 car accidents occur each year in Canada and that results in eight fatalities a day, on average. - 123RF Stock Photo

Traffic fatalities have become so common they are relegated to small print and back pages.

But the sheer number of them, expressed in a different way, might cause you to take more notice.

Transport Canada says 160,000 car accidents occur each year in Canada and that results in eight fatalities a day, on average.

The annual total of 2,900 deaths is a number that might get more attention. That’s the equivalent of seven jumbo jets going down.

If even one airplane crashes that is major news — especially a large one. If seven of these were to crash every year, the public outcry and pressure for action would be phenomenal.

You can bet the various authorities and regulatory bodies would be on the case quicker than you could imagine.

For every one of those deaths the spin-off effect is huge, affecting loved ones, fellow workers, friends and neighbors. There are physical scars and burdens — including major financial costs. Estimates put the price tag of the carnage on our highways upwards of $25 billion a year.

That includes health care, rehabilitation costs, long-term disability costs, policing and so on.

That number should also cause folks to sit up and take notice. Eight deaths a day spread across this monstrous country might not make the news, but $208 million a month or $60 million a day should.

Or to put it another, way let’s assume there are 12.5 million taxpayers in the country. That means each and every one of us is paying about $2,000 a year toward the cost of traffic fatalities.

If the cost in lives is not sufficient to focus attention on the problem, the cost in dollars and cents might be the answer. As everyone in this region knows, medical costs are a huge issue.

If even a portion of this $208 billion could be saved and redirected toward medical costs the effect would be considerable.

And if we could reduce traffic fatalities, it stands to reason we would have an even greater effect on traffic injuries, which in and of themselves are a major component of runaway medical costs.

Nobody is suggesting that various regulatory bodies are doing nothing to address the issue of traffic safety, quite the contrary.

These dedicated folks are working hard at the issue and Canada has one of the better records in the world with respect to traffic safety.

But if we were to direct more attention to the issue and give these people more resources and support, perhaps they could do an even better job.

There are a number of issues that could be addressed from research into driver behaviour to mandatory and extensive driver training, from improved roads and networks to more patrols and stiffer penalties.

We have become accustomed to this serious problem. It has become part of our culture, our daily lives. If this had been a new plague or these deaths occurred in more concentrated numbers, they might have brought about change or at least public awareness and a push for change.

But instead, traffic safety often gets pushed to the background amidst a steady stream of political and other news.

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