OHS Canada Magazine

Traffic is returning to pre-pandemic levels, and so are fatal accidents


A roadside memorial is set up on the side of Highway 69 in Sudbury, Ontario.

A roadside memorial is set up on the side of Highway 69 in Sudbury, Ontario.

As traffic levels return to pre-pandemic levels on many highways, safety groups are sounding warning bells about the number of people killed in crashes.

Vehicle crashes cause 38 per cent of preventable workplace deaths, according to the National Safety Council (NSC) in the U.S., and it’s calling on employers to implement “safe driving policies and train employees to identify and address impairment.”

Spike in fatalities

More than 46,000 people were killed on U.S. roads in 2021, according to the NSC — a nine per cent jump from 2020. Similar numbers aren’t available for Canada, but traffic is increasing on this side of the border as restrictions drop and employers call staff back to the office.

This comes as the kilometres travelled rebounded 11 per cent from 2020 lows and only lags 2019 levels by one per cent, it said.

“NSC estimates the death rate in 2021 exceeds the rate in 2019 by 19 per cent at 1.43 deaths per million miles travelled,” it said.

Advertisement

Lorraine Martin, NSC president and CEO, said “we are failing each other, and must act to prioritize safety for all road users.”

Addressing the issue

NSC is calling on government to implement a path to zero traffic deaths, including:

  • Adopting a “safe system” approach when looking at roadway safety
  • Improved impaired driving countermeasures, such as ignition locks for convicted drunk drivers, lowering BAC levels to 0.05 and better education about the nature of impairment
  • Installation of automated enforcement in an equitable manner to support safe speeds and adherence to traffic lights
  • A comprehensive approach to speed management, including lowering speed limits in accordance with roadway design
  • Standardization and acceleration of Automated Driver Assistance Systems into the fleet that have life-saving impacts.