MELT a new truck driver training standard

MELT truck driver training standards introduced

MELT is short for Mandatory Entry Level Training, a new national truck driver training standard. Geared towards training new commercial truck drivers, the MELT program gives more traction to sensible road safety. Training, as well as requirements for electronic logging devices (ELDs), are both part of a new national program announced by federal Transport Minister, Marc Garneau.

MELT is not capable of melting away winter, but it is good news for road safety.

Last year, the Humbolt Broncos’ tragic bus collision with a transport truck revealed the lack of mandatory commercial truck driver training in Saskatchewan. Improving road safety and training policies are good things that have happened since.

Licensing and driver training requirements for commercial truck drivers are handled by Provinces. The investigation into the Humbolt Broncos collision revealed the gaps in mandatory or voluntary training of commercial drivers across the country. Training, licensing, age and experience are clear factors in road safety and collision prevention. To many it was surprising that someone with no formal training could be driving an 18-wheeler.

Motivated by safety

Announcing the MELT truck driver training program earlier this year, Federal Transport Minister, Marc Garneau said the new mandatory minimum standards will take effect by Jan. 1, 2020. Paving the way to enhanced road safety, this is the first time there will be the same national standards.

This was motivated by the need for highway safety, said  Marc Garneau, federal Transport Minister. The announcement earlier this year also included enhanced road safety for impaired and distracted driving.

Roadmap by the Canadian Trucking Alliance

MELT mandatory entry level training for truck drivers introducedSupport from provincial counterparts, the Council of Ministers Responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety, and by the commercial trucking industry made this new national driver training standard possible.

Created in 2018, the The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) launched a national vision for truck safety in Canada. The existing program in Ontario and new requirements in Saskatchewan and Alberta will join to form the national MELT standard.

Adoption into the National Safety Code is expected by the end of this year.

It’s a historic day for our industry to see all provinces committed to creating a national training standard— Scott Smith, Chair, Canadian Trucking Alliance.

Representing 4,500 commercial truck drivers, the CTA is a federation of provincial trucking associations. CTA endorsed the collaboration between trucking industry, federal and provincial governments. It is the first time Canada will have a national harmonized truck driver training standard.

Digital Trucking

MELT and e-logs part of new truck safety program announcedAlso coming to Canada by 2020 are new e-log standards for commercial trucks. These are technical standards for Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs), or e-logs.

Canada lags several years behind the United States in e-logging standards, which were finalized there in late 2015.  There are two general types of ELD devices on the market: basic and enhanced. Basic devices or simple hardware and apps cost less, and are geared to independent truckers, and meet basic e-log compliance standards. Commercial fleet operators can choose devices with enhanced data collection, mileage tracking, and the all-important arrival time.

Working like many wireless devices, most ELDs connect to cellular networks and GPS, then store data in the cloud. Using an app on their phone, truckers can connect it using Bluetooth to their vehicle’s engine. Read a comparison chart of ELD devices published by the Commercial Carrier Journal.

What do e-logs record?

When in motion, an electronic logging device must record these minimum data points on an hourly basis:

  • date, time, location
  • engine hours, vehicle miles
  • identification of the driver, carrier and vehicle

E-logs are part of the new digital trucking era, and can enhance road safety. However, the launch of ELD’s in the US has not been without concerns since some devices still do not meet standards set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. A survey of independent drivers showed more than 80% had not installed an ELD before the deadline of December 18, 2018. Reports also say enforcement of e-log requirements has been ineffective so far.

We are committed to working with all governments on a third-party certified ELD mandate— said CTA president Stephen Laskowski, setting an example for commercial carriers and drivers in Canada.

MELT is a new mandatory national training program for entry level commercial truck drivers in Canada. Electronic logging devices will also become mandatory on commercial trucks, and both will take effect nationally on January 1, 2020.

Turning the Humbolt tragedy into positive action will add to improved road safety across Canada. We support these steps taken by federal and provincial governments and the commercial trucking industry. It is the least we could do to prevent another Humbolt Broncos crash.

Distracted Driving

What is the cost of new distracted driving law in Ontario? How can we break the habit of phone dependency while driving? The New Year has arrived along with raised fines and more awareness of new distracted driving penalties.

New Distracted Driving Law in Ontario

On JanDistracted driving search trend on Googleuary 1, 2019, Police in Ontario got a strict new road safety law to use in combating distracted driving. The new penalties are the harshest in Canada. A first offense can get fines up to $1,000, a three-day suspension of a license, and three demerit points. Penalties increase significantly with second and third convictions. That caught people’s attention. Many looked it up on Google (see Google Trends chart).

We hope they were not Googling while driving at the time.

Widely reported in the media, the new Ontario law on distracted driving and consequences of conviction seems to have made an impact. The more people know, the less chance of a distracted driving tragedy.

We think this is good news, but it will take willpower to break bad habits.

Mobile phone dependency

Habits are hard to break (ask anyone trying to stick to their New Year’s Resolution). Our phones are never out of reach, including while driving. The urge to look at a text, answer a call, or look up an address is hard to resist. The phone dependency phenomenon has shown up in data. This been a growing concern for road safety advocates like us. Some powerful investors have pressured phone makers to help people to lessen their phone use and save us from our own bad habits.

A plurality, 45 per cent, feel that the smartphone makers are not doing enough to fight smartphone addiction, said Lorne Bozinoff, president, Forum Research – Financial Post, Feb 23, 2018.

The 2018 study of Canadians found 43 percent spend between one and two hours a day on their cellphones. We think the number is likely higher, since people often underestimate how much time they spend.

Forum Research also asked Canadians how quickly they respond to messages on their cellphones. Nearly half, 48 per cent, said they replied within 10 minutes. About 71 per cent said they replied in less than 30 minutes. Residents in the Atlantic provinces had the highest rate of those responding in under 30 minutes (76 per cent), followed by Alberta and British Columbia (75 per cent).

Don’t Snap & Drive Messaging

Distracted driving includes snapchatting, texting or dialing while drivingle drivingAsk anyone under 35 who uses Snapchat the fastest way to share a moment’. The social media app gives you points when you open and reply. Comparing scores with friends drives you to open the app to collect more points. More concerning is the real-time speed feature. It encourages some users to up the ante and drive at excessive speeds. Endorphins are triggered when we get pulled into the constant feedback loops whether its chasing points, Facebook ‘likes’ or re-Tweets.

The impact of chasing social media rewards can be deadly. Last year, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) fifth annual awareness campaign targeted motorists aged 18 to 34. They are the demographic most likely to die in distracted driving crashes, and the core user group of social media.

People need to understand the potential price of distracted driving. The cost of a ticket is nothing, compared to the irrevocable cost of taking someone’s life. Mark Rosekind, NHTSA administrator said this in 2016 when launching a “Don’t Snap and Drive” campaign.

Ontario distracted driving statistics

Police in Ontario also know distracted driving is increasingly resulting in crashes, injury and fatalities on our roads. The numbers are not encouraging: the number of collisions is growing, and deaths from collisions caused by distracted driving have doubled since 2000.

Ontario data on collisions from 2013 show:

  • one person is injured in a distracted-driving collision every half hour
  • a driver using a phone is four times more likely to crash than a driver focusing on the road

Back in August, the OPP launched a Back to School distracted driving campaign. They asked drivers to put away their phones.

Not ok: Clearing up confusion over hands-free voice activation

Voice commands to a mobile phone reduce distracted drivingPeople are not always clear on what type of technology use counts as distracted driving. Dialing or scrolling through contacts is not ok. You can ONLY activate or deactivate (turn on or off) a hands-free function, and ONLY if the device is mounted or secured.

Hands-free and voice-activated devices can be used, so long as you have it connected to an earpiece, headset or via Bluetooth. You must use voice-activated dialing or commands to your media player, like “Hey Google, play my driving playlist.”  Visit the Ontario Ministry of Transportation for a guide to using hands-free devices.

Using your phone to talk, text, check maps or choose a playlist while you’re behind the wheel all count as distracted driving – and they put you and others at risk. Government of Ontario

Phones are only part of the problem

Trimtag Be Alert woven patch trioOther driving distractions are equally as dangerous. For some, vehicles have become second homes and restaurants. Saving time sends us to a drive through to pick up food. We eat and drink while at the wheel. Some use the rear view mirror to check our hair instead of checking traffic.

A combination of awareness, deterrence and enforcement of the new Ontario distracted driving law give Police in Ontario the strongest prevention tools in Canada. Drivers, this is a wake up call to stop driving behavior which can cost you $1,000, or much, much more.

We call anything that will improve road safety a ‘win’ for everyone. This is what the Trimtag “Be Alert” road safety program is all about. We support all messages aimed promoting road safety for children around school zones.

We believe in the MADD Canada message

Trimtag is MADD about the Holidays


We believe in safety

Wishing you a safe and happy holiday season, from all of us at Trimtag Trading Inc. To you, our insignia customers: police, fire, EMS and municipalities – and all those who keep us safe every day, thank you.

We can all be part of the solution

All of us can be part of a meaningful road safety solution. We look forward to working with you in 2019 and sharing more about our BE ALERT program in the New Year.

We believe in MADD Canada

On behalf of all our customers, suppliers, colleagues and friends, Trimtag Trading Inc. has made a donation to MADD Canada. Until then, we encourage everyone to observe the message of MADD Canada: drive sober, stay safe, and…be alert.


Teach youth cycling safety

We believe all cyclists should follow the rules and be alert to safety every time they share the road. In this post, we look at how we can teach youth cycling safety to last a lifetime. First, some stats:

  • children 5 to 7 are usually just learning to ride a bike
  • children 8 to 16, is when they are more likely to be riding near and in traffic
  • the older they get, the more peers can influence how the ride

Where do bike crashes happen?
Children are likely to be involved in crashes mid block, entering a road from a driveway or alley; at intersections with stop signs; and while traveling in the same direction as an overtaking car – Bike Safety & Education research.

Learning how to ride safely

Learning to ride a bike is a right of passage. It is a wonderful feeling of freedom and speed. For parents it is the moment when they literally have to ‘let go’ of their child as they wobble down the road. This is how kids learn to combine motor skills and cognitive skills. You can’t ride for them. But you can set them up for cycling safety. The first important steps to cycling injury prevention: children have to know and understand the rules of the road. They should have five or more hours of on-bicycle training. The best programs to teach youth cycling safety include:

Basic bicycle handling skills:
  • balancing, pedaling, steering, and braking

Physical safety skills:

  • searching for traffic (moving the head)
  • quickly moving through the chosen traffic gap
  • using the brakes to stop at lights and stop signs
  • signaling when turning

Sign them up for a beginner bike safety camp – most municipalities offer programs. Or, take advantage of this Ontario Government/ CAA template for hosting bike rodeos. It is a tool kit for elementary schools and local community groups to organize a rodeo to introduce young riders to the rules of the road in cooperation with local police. Sign them up for that too.

Setting a community example

York Regional Police, Fire and EMS teach youth bike and other safety lessons at the Community Safety Village holiday snowglobe Located within Bruce’s Mill Conservation Area in the town of Whitchurch-Stouffville is an exceptional example of a safety training facility for young children. The Community Safety Village is an indoor learning centre and outdoor miniature village.

It operates as a unique three-way partnership between York Region Paramedic Services, York Regional Police and local municipal fire services. Students from kindergarten to grade five receive hands on lessons in health and safety. Bicycle safety training is offered, along with lessons in traffic, fire and water safety, and basic first aid or CPR education.

Teachers must book early (usually in August), to organize a school trip to the Community Safety Village. Public events and open houses also take place throughout the year, including this year’s charity toy drive for the holidays.

Foster good helmet habits

Speed, inexperience and not wearing protective gear are among leading causes of cycling injuries for children. And, children between ages 10 and 14 is the group least likely to wear a helmet.– Canadian Red Cross

Parents of younger cyclists set an example, and can foster good helmet habits with their kids. The younger, the better. As soon as they are using a wheeled form of transportation. Well, of course you might say.

Start by buying one. Make them wear it. Properly. Every time.

Again, we might sound like your mom here, but no helmet is any good if its not protecting your head. You might be surprised how many still ride without one. And even if they do, a helmet which doesn’t fit correctly, or is not on right is not as effective. Make sure it fits.

Lighten up

Use reflective stripes on clothing and bicycles, and use flickering lights (even during daylight hours) to make cyclist more visible to motorists–Canadian Red Cross

Trimtag BE ALERT bicycle glow cap

We couldn’t agree more.  Some interesting ideas we have seen include LED caps for air tubes. They are really visible when the bike is in motion for cross traffic. Reflectors can be ‘cool’ and make a safety statement.

As the saying goes, “it’s like riding a bike.”  Muscle memory you never forget. When children learn to love cycling, and do it safely, they can ride their whole lifetime. We want to encourage everyone to be part of the solution by taking bike safety seriously. Make sure children have the right equipment and enroll them in programs which teach youth cycling safety skills, before they hop on and pedal down the road.

The Vision Zero programs do not seem to be working. We examined some of the causes and solutions in our 3-part crash course in road safety. Now we seek small, practical steps all road users can take to prevent pedestrian and cyclist injury on our streets. Come along for the ride, er, read. In our next post, we will look at what motorists can do to stay safe on shared roads.

And, stay tuned, we are testing some easy-to-attach reflective items perfect for a youngster’s bike, helmet and backpack…until then, take the time to be alert.

Pedestrians it’s time to be alert on our roads

Time to be alert daylight savings time ends Nov 4 2018 less daylight means more dangerIt’s time to fall back. It’s time to be alert on our roads. Pedestrians, for you, the darker days of November are particularly perilous. It might be obvious to say it, but your visibility is automatically lower to drivers at night.

When dayTime to be alert for pedestrianslight savings time ends, we gain an hour of sleep, but it shifts daylight hours. Sunrise and sunset times are earlier. When the time changes on November 4, 2018, sunset is just after 5 pm. That means afternoon rush hour for many people is done at dusk or in the dark. Even children coming from after school activities might be walking home when the street lights come on.

The annual time change is a factor which makes November and December the most vulnerable months for pedestrians.

We have examined some of the causes and solutions in our 3-part crash course in road safety. Now we seek small, practical steps all road users can take to prevent pedestrian and cyclist injury on our streets.

It might sound like common sense, but because the Vision Zero programs do not seem to be working, it can’t hurt to remind everyone now is particularly an important time to be alert. All of us can be part of the solution by being a little extra cautious when our days are darker.

Because risk is highest for those on foot, we first chose to look at some things pedestrians and parents can do.

Heads up

At risk of sounding like your mother…pedestrians, we’re asking you to cross with traffic signals and use crosswalks. Children should use the assistance of the everyday road heroes: crossing guards. If your street doesn’t have a crossing guard, push the button to activate the flashing yellow lights. Take the extra step and try to make eye contact with drivers before you set off across the street. On busy multi-lane streets, pay attention and be alert as you make your way across. Sometimes you are not visible because vehicles are blocking sight lines.

Even if it is a small inconvenience, take the time to walk an extra block or two so you are at a controlled intersection or crosswalk. And people, for the sake of cyclists and drivers, please don’t jay walk or dodge between cars. Finally, distracted walking is a thing – we have all seen the goofy videos of people walking into poles, people and parked cars because their phone captured all of their attention. Don’t be one of those people.

Lighten up

You may have pulled dark coats out of the closet as temperatures fall. You may have pulled your hood over your head and put on mittens and boots to stay warm. At risk of sounding like a out of touch fashion blogger, we think less daylight should be the season to wear your brightest accessories. Neon rocks! The 80s are back! (actually retro 80’s are a trend – ask your kids). If neon isn’t your thing, try a light coloured scarf or hat.

Parents need to be the fashion police, especially for young children who walk to and from school, or get to school by bus. Many brands of kids outerwear have reflective zippers or tape details. Backpacks are a perfect place to dangle LED clips or add reflective patches. While you are at it, may we suggest you put one on your own coat, hat, or handbag too? You and your pooch can be seen better with a high-visibility collar, leash or coat.

The whole family and even the family pet can make a brilliant fashion safety statement.

Watch your step

Time to be alert about road safety and wear boots with good traction like the Baffin 'Ice Castle'Colder temperatures also means sidewalks and roads get more slippery under foot. Its time to pull on the footwear with traction. Yes, we know (again) thick soled boots may not make the fashion statement you want. But spraining your ankle, or sliding down a steep sidewalk is not worth it. One of our fashion insiders tells us Baffin Boots are a good bet. They have solid soles, are warm and weatherproof. They have some great colours and have sizes for the whole family.

Come along, in our next post, we will look at what cyclists can do to stay safe on shared roads. And, stay tuned, we are testing some easy-to-attach reflective items…until then, take the time to be alert.

A crash course in traffic injury prevention: Lesson 3

Figuring out priorities, fixing technical issues and finding transit alternatives are the tools being used by cities now to combat congestion and improve road safety. The future is the focus of Lesson 3 in our Crash Course in Road Safety. Looking down the road a bit, we see advanced driver assist technology and city planning playing major roles. We are still a long way from a world where humans are completely off the hook for road safety.

Building better urban infrastructure

New technology and road designs will help keep cyclists and pedestrians safeCanada is among the most urbanized countries in the world. Seven in ten people live in urban areas today. According to Statistics Canada, our population is expected to reach 40 million by 2030. Most of that growth will be in large metropolitan areas.

Expanding transportation infrastructure is critical. Improving pedestrian and cyclist safety, and minimizing congestion are part of designing for city growth. Some may also try e-bike programs and urban logistics plans to consolidate deliveries and reduce pollution.

Driver assist smart cars are superhuman solutions

‘Smart’ self-driving cars and driver assist systems can surpass human capabilities. Machines have 360 degree vision, endless attention spans and can multi-task. Response times are faster. Developments are coming from tech, auto parts and digital imaging companies like Texas Instruments, Robert Bosch Gmbh, Magna International, and Fujitsu.

Cars have superhuman senses; they see further and react faster than humans canBosch Mobility Systems

Driver Bosch Mobility driver assist systems equip vehicles with superhuman capabilitiesassist systems are grouped by sensor technologies like RADAR, ultrasonic, and LiDAR (laser light sensors). Ultrasonic sensors cost less and are effective in the dark. Video in 2D and 3D help with near and long-range vision. These should all help both drivers and driver-assist vehicles see pedestrians better at night.

Giving us a glimpse into the future, some of these driver assist technologies are available in 2019 vehicle models:

  • adaptive cruise control
  • adaptive front lighting
  • automatic emergency braking
  • blind spot detection
  • drowsiness monitoring
  • forward collision warning
  • GPS navigation
  • lane departure warning
  • night vision
  • parking assist
  • tire pressure monitoring

Expect rapid growth of driver assist systems over the next decade. New mandatory vehicle safety standards begin in two years. Consumer demand is also fueling the market for enhanced vehicle safety features. According to a Market Research Future study, the market for driver assist systems could reach US $112 billion ten years from now.

That’s a whole lot of new safety technology. But is it enough to augment reality of road safety and reach Vision Zero?

Man and machine must make tough moral choices

We know human drivers are increasingly distracted. Driver assist or driverless vehicles are not faultless either.

Technical challenges regarding malfunction of these advanced driver assistance systems are a cause for concern and represent market restraintMarket Research Future study.

Building in backups in case one system fails, and security to prevent hacking into connected vehicles are some of the ways this will need to be addressed. Testing must be rigorous in real-life spaces, not controlled labs. Fusing all these technologies together is the future of driver assist, and potentially driverless vehicles.

One thing we cannot lose sight of is potentially life-altering decision making. Problem is in the programming. Azim Shariff, a University of British Columbia researcher notes moral choices machines are programmed to make in life or death scenarios for self-driving cars:

 Algorithms that have to be explicitly programmed well in advance of the situation…they have the responsibility —Globe & Mail Oct 25, 2018 Matters of Morality Self Driving Cars Face a Cultural Obstacle

Research at the MIT Media Lab tested people’s choices with an online game called the Moral Machine. Deciding what to do in a random series of car crash scenarios, participants have to make split-second decisions to minimize harm. After the game was played more than 40 million times, researchers concluded North Americans and Europeans tend to make choices which save the most individuals. They are more likely to let the vehicle stay on course, protecting occupants over others on the road.

Visual aids: we see you, do you see us?

Volkswagen Touareg has micropixel HD headlights which add driver assist visibility

Courtesy Volkswagen Touareg R-Line

Lighting designers at Volkswagen are working to address a key factor in pedestrian collisions: lack of eye contact with drivers. High performance LED headlights are cheaper than laser, and have up to 30,000 light points.

For the first time, these micro-pixel HD headlights will project information directly onto the road, further improving safety–Volkswagen AG

Pedestrian visibility is another area where we are seeing technical improvements which can be done cost-effectively.

Reflective appliqués and accessories on clothing are a clear way to improve pedestrian visibility. Flashing LED lights are now small enough to clip on a zipper, shoelace or helmet.

Courtesy Canada Goose

Making a bigger impression, Canada Goose has created raincoats with material which has reflective fibres woven right in. The black coat suddenly shows a birch bark pattern when illuminated by headlights. The whole coat glows.

One day a perfect utopia of smart cities, sidewalks, vehicles and wearables may be in our future. We see driver assist systems are able to minimize human error, but cannot eliminate it quite yet.

Lives are at risk, technology can fail. For now, humans must continue to be personally responsible when using the road. Our backup plan is to insist we must all BE ALERT.

Join us

Our 3-part Crash Course in Road Safety revealed the facts history and today and possibilities of tomorrow. Prevention will be part of the best solution. We encourage cities, companies, engineers, designers, researchers and programmers to keep working at it. In the meantime, join in now to help keep the most vulnerable road users safe.

Be the first to learn about our new “Be Alert” road safety program. Subscribe to follow this journey. Learn more about how we could develop a customized program for you, drop us a note.

A crash course in traffic injury prevention: Lesson 2

In our post last month, we reviewed three historical improvements in road safety: Vehicle design and engineering, improved roads and signage, and driver training. Lesson 2 in our crash course on traffic injury prevention looks at today: combating congestion, transit alternatives, and trouble with technology.

Combating congestion

TransLink 10 year transit plan

TransLink 10-year plan for greater Vancouver

Canadian cities are growing. This is generally seen as a good thing economically. But urban intensification comes with more congestion and commute times. Municipal and regional mass transit plans are designed and debated. High costs and long-term time frames delay or derail them.

The ‘RouteAhead’ plan for Calgary Transit looks 30 years into the future, but Calgary is also in need of new LRT cars now. In Toronto, the Metrolinx Eglinton Crosstown line promises to move people sixty percent faster. Construction has been disrupting a main city artery since 2011, but it will be 2021 when this new line opens. Vancouver’s TransLink has a ten year vision for its biggest expansion, including new electric buses built in Canada by New Flyer Industries and Nova Bus.

In the meantime, more people have to find other ways to get around town.

Transit alternatives

In July, Peel Region announced a six month Off-Peak Delivery (OPD) pilot with LCBO, Loblaw, PepsiCo, Walmart Canada, and Weston Foods. It follows a study done last year with the Ontario Trucking Association and private sector trucking companies.  Similar off-peak delivery programs during the Vancouver Olympics and the PanAm Games in Toronto showed measurable results.

The Region of Peel’s pilot is a great way for us to learn more about the potential of Off-Peak Delivery in the Region. –Jonathan Blackham, Director of Policy and Public Affairs, Ontario Trucking Association.

Also in Ontario, GCommuter trains and carpool parking encourages alternate transportation to and from workO Transit is expanding services to suburban communities by offering integrated commuter rail, carpool parking and HOV lanes. Inner cities, meanwhile, are dedicating lanes for bikes, adding bus routes and round-trip transit tickets.

Busy intersections restrict turning and parking to keep things moving. Experiments are underway to improve the speed of surface transit routes like Toronto’s King Street dedicated streetcar zone.

Pedestrians, priorities and pedal power

Pedestrians are given priority at all-way crosswalks, advanced walk signals and communities still use human crossing guards in school zones.

Toronto bylaws consider pedelecs (or pedal-assisted) bikes similar to regular bikes and they can be used on all cycling infrastructure, including bike lanes, cycle tracks and multi-use trails. –City of Toronto spokesperson Cheryl San Juan.

Many new alternatives to personal vehicles now exist. Private ride sharing companies have proliferated in cities which allow them. Others are choosing human powered modes of transport by foot and pedal. Everything from e-bikes, e-boards and mobility scooters now compete for space with mass transit and private vehicles on the same roadways.

Adding to all this is a rapid increase in truck and deliveries for groceries and e-commerce packages, and bicycle-powered takeout food services. Its enough to drive anyone to distraction. Congestion is getting worse. This is a major factor why we still see collisions with the most vulnerable on the road. No wonder cities with Vision Zero goals are struggling to achieve results.

Trouble with technology

Food delivery apps are wonderfully convenient, but are adding to congestion. Gridlock from double parked delivery trucks is a common sight. In August, New York City became the first to restrict the number of ride-sharing vehicles which had grown exponentially because they were often vacant.

Drivers fight congestion with the help of all-day traffic reports and apps. That is giving rise to short cuts and speeding through residential areas. Traffic enforcement cannot be everywhere. That is why citizens worried about speeding and pedestrian safety, ask for speed bumps and flashing signs to slow things down, especially in school zones. The issue is making headlines:

Ontario should act to let cities use photo radar in school zones –Toronto Star, editorial board, June 11, 2018.

Pitting people on opposite sides is a philosophical collision course. It’s not the long term solution we need for everyone. Greater road safety for pedestrians and cyclists must still keep everyone moving. Better solutions include fewer cars, more alternative modes of transport, smart use of timing, technology and street space.

Join us

These facts of history and today convince us even more that prevention is the best solution. Follow along our next stop on the journey: Lesson 3 Crash Course in Road Safety looks at the future. Join in to learn how we can all do our part to keep the most vulnerable road users safe. We encourage schools, safety committees, companies and ordinary folks — whether walkers, riders or drivers– take part to make this preventable problem stop.

Be the first to learn about our new “Be Alert” road safety program. Subscribe to follow this journey. Learn more about how we could develop a customized program for you, drop us a note.

A crash course in traffic injury prevention Lesson 1

Congestion is intensifying, but it is only part of the story about road safety. To better understand, we took a crash course in traffic injury prevention. Here’s what we got from Lesson 1: better cars, roads and driver behaviour all play a positive role.

Lesson 1: Learn from history

MTO Ministry of Transportation OntarioIn 1916, more than one hundred years ago, the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) was created. Road safety was not a top concern:

Cars were the new hot thing to have. There were no traffic lights and no driver’s licences. And there wasn’t a single provincial highway. MTO

In the 1930’s Ontario’s traffic enforcement was transferred to the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), and the broken white line on the centre of highways was introduced. This was the first road marking of its kind in Canada. Tracking and determining causes of, road accidents began in 1949.  A demerit point system for driving offenses was introduced a decade later as a ‘major innovation in road safety’.

You might say Henry Ford’s invention of the automobile was the dawn of road safety issues. Looking back over 100 years illustrates we now have figured out much better ways to prevent traffic injuries. Campaigns to achieve Vision Zero’ tell us there is still more to do.

Growing Road Safety Concerns

In the early 1960s, governments in developed countries began to take action on road and vehicle safety. Encouraged by three insurance industry groups representing more than 500 auto insurers in the U.S., the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) began as an independent science-based agency. Safety crusader, Ralph Nader challenged the American automobile industry to improve safety aspects of their products in the 1960s. Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) became concerned with the issue of road traffic injuries as early as 1962, with a report on the nature and dynamics of the problem.

Road traffic injuries constitute a major public health and development crisis, and are predicted to increase if road safety is not addressed adequately — World Health Organization

2019 Acura RDX rated Top Safety Pick by IIHS

2019 Acura RDX received IIHS Top Safety Pick

Emphasis on vehicle safety once resisted is embraced today. Automotive brands now compete to offer the best new safety features and technologies to their fleet. Consumers place a high value on safety and consider it when they purchase or lease a vehicle. Today, an IIHS safety rating evaluates two aspects:

  • crashworthiness — how well a vehicle protects its occupants in a crash
  • crash avoidance and mitigation — technology that can prevent a crash or lessen its severity

The improvements mostly make it safer for the driver and passengers. Some new sensor technologies like pedestrian detection help to mitigate driver error. None are yet fail proof when it comes to protecting pedestrians or cyclists.

Engineering Safer Roads

Cars and trucks have been made more safe, so have the roads they use. Civil engineers and city planners have learned how to design and build better. They attempt to balance safety and efficient traffic movement. Associations like the UK’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents point to learning from incidents to achieve accident reduction, and prevention. Their ‘naked streets’ and ‘shared space’ recommendations resonated with us:

Low Cost Remedial Engineering Measures range from improvements to road signs and markings, road surface improvements, applying naked streets principles to street clutter, junction re-design, traffic calming schemes, 20-mph limits and zones, improved walking or cycling facilities to major road improvement schemes or shared space schemes.–Royal Society fro the Prevention of Accidents

Driver Training

Young Drivers of CanadaNo matter how well built the vehicle or the road, humans are at the wheel—at least until driver assist technologies, or driver-less cars become the norm. Humans are, well, human. They make mistakes. Training to prevent mistakes is another proven effective part of the road safety solution.

Insurance companies acknowledge the value of driver education programs with preferred rates. Training over one million drivers since 1970 is Woodbridge, Ontario-based Young Drivers of Canada.  Influencing in the adoption of daytime running lights back in 1979, they also participated in the development of the province’s Graduated Licensing system in 1994. Young Drivers says all drivers make mistakes and develop bad habits. Five things they note all drivers can improve are: keep out of others’ blind spots, create an escape route, turn positioning, point of no return (at an intersection) and zipper merging.

This first lesson in our crash course has taught us about three significant improvements contributing to road safety:

  1. Design and engineering of safer cars
  2. Improved roads and signage
  3. Training better drivers

Join us

These facts of history convince us even more that prevention is the best solution. Read more in our Crash Course in Road Safety, Lesson 2. Join in to learn how we can all do our part to keep the most vulnerable road users safe. We encourage schools, safety committees, companies and ordinary folks — whether walkers, riders or drivers — to take part to make this preventable problem stop.

Be the first to learn about our new “Be Alert” road safety program. Subscribe to follow this journey. Learn more about how we could develop a customized program for you, drop us a note.

avoid the city congestion penalty

Congestion penalty costs cities when cars are stuck in trafficCitizens living in thriving cities are paying a heavy congestion penalty. Traffic could be viewed as a positive symptom of economic activity. Yet traffic hassles, construction, detours and general increase in street activity makes it harder and slower to get around town.

We all suffer from too much of a good thing.

Congestion penalties are measured and compared city by city: commute times, pollution, noise, traffic collisions. These add up to lost productivity which dents a city’s global competitiveness and lowers the quality of life for its citizens.

A report by global consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, highlights a new phenomenon causing urban traffic to get worse: e-commerce delivery vehicles.

Commercial vehicles and online deliveries make city traffic worse and carry significant economic costs that demand creative solutions. Congestion costs can be surprisingly high. These “externalities”—in economic parlance—represent as much as 2 to 4 percent of city GDP — McKinsey & Company, Quarterly, May 2018.

Ways and Waze around it
Of Waze is a GPS-enabled app by Google helps drivers get around towncourse that is why drivers are looking for a short cut. The last stanza in Robert Frost’s famous poem The Road Not Taken makes it a virtue to ‘take the one less traveled’. It’s a roadmap for life and a license to go off the beaten path.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. – Robert Frost

Mostly, though, the time starved nature of our daily grind explains why drivers  and delivery trucks deek off on a side road. It might also excuse rule-bending behaviour like double parking or cutting through parking lots. Anything to get to work, pick up the kids and get where you are going. With GPS-equipped smartphones and vehicles, drivers are empowered with real-time assistance from apps to ‘beat’ traffic on every journey.

Google’s highly popular Waze app has about 40 million users worldwide. It’s brilliant as a congestion penalty buster, making it easy for a driver to re-route enroute. Waze uses GPS navigation software to provide turn-by-turn navigation information combined with user-submitted travel times and route details.

Don’t enable bad behavior
Technology clearly can help battle traffic. That is why last year the City of Toronto partnered with Waze to share real-time traffic data. But there’s good and bad with the use of these apps. Saving time motivates drivers to regularly take smaller streets. That is exactly where kids play, bike or walk to school. Outsmarting traffic can lead to abuse: failing to stop, ignoring posted speed, pedestrian crossings or turning signs. Police enforcement cannot be spread city-wide. Apps should not enable bad behaviour.

Civil society relies on the goodwill and good behaviour of all who share the city. The strain of congestion is having a devastating impact on the most vulnerable road users: pedestrians and cyclists. Traffic and collisions have now migrated off arterial roads into residential areas. Residents have taken to posting lawn signs pleading for motorists to “SLOW DOWN”.

Ultimately though, we wondered if these very helpful traffic apps do the opposite of what many cities are trying to do: get more people out of their cars, walk, cycle and use mass transit.

Ways of Curtailing Commercial Vehicles

McKinsey report notes how commercial deliveries can adapt their ways to avoid contributing to a city’s congestion penalty.

Logistics staging areas outside city centers (urban consolidation centers), load pooling, and parcel lockers have proved successful in reducing miles driven by commercial vehicles and the number of deliveries, as well as costs. Allowing night deliveries reduces congestion during peak hours and lowers vehicle-related emissions. These practices, plus the use of electric vehicles and autonomous ground vehicles, show the greatest potential, in both environmental and economic terms. In the longer term, droids, drones, and individualized delivery could also make a difference.

We are inspired by these do-able delivery solutions and the meaning behind Robert Frost’s poem–choice is inevitable. It will help everyone see the value in easing the congestion penalty.

Join us
We will continue to look at how we can all do our part to keep the most vulnerable road users safe. You can help. Together we want to reach “Zero is the Goal”

We encourage schools, safety committees, companies and ordinary folks — whether walkers, riders or drivers– take part to make this preventable problem stop. Subscribe to follow this journey. If you wish to learn more about identity or insignia products, or how we could develop a customized ‘Zero is the Goal’ program for you, drop us a note.

Road guide lines

Zebra stripes are a cost effective pavement intervention but do they work to protect pedestrians? Painted pavement has been used for years to help motorists see what’s up ahead. Road guide lines help them stay in their lane. See where the center and shoulder are. Know where to stop, or turn.

Zebra stripes are extra wide road guide lines painted at intersections or mid-block. They universally send a signal to drivers to be alert, slow down and stop for pedestrians-or the occasional zebra.

For people on foot, zebra stripes mark where best to cross a street.

Its not clear who came up with the idea to paint roads in this way. Seems like road guide lines arrived with the boom in private car ownership in the early 1950’s. A scientist in the UK tried various colours: yellow, blue, but then settled on white as having the best visibility against dark asphalt.

Famous Four crossing

The Beatles, Abbey Road album cover

The most famous zebra crossing in world is probably the one in north west London. In 1969, four guys named John, Ringo, Paul and George walked single file, across a zebra crossing on Abbey Road. It became the cover of The Beatles 11th album. Immediately successful, it reached #1  in the UK and US. Alas, it was close to the end of the road for the Fab Four– they disbanded a few months after the album’s release.

Those stripes still draw music pilgrimages and copy cats. They have been moved a bit from the original spot and repaved a few times. Incredibly these particular zebra stripes were given ‘Grade II’ heritage status – normally only buildings would qualify.

Pretty impressive for painted road guide lines.

Zebra stripes protect ordinary pedestrians every day and night. They don’t require staffing (other than to paint them in the first place). Wet or dry, they are visible because of the special reflective paint used, except maybe on heavily snow-covered roads. Relatively inexpensive, zebra stripes are a widely used basic road safety measure.

Pelican crossing is not what you think when it comes to road guide linesPanda, Pelican, Toucan and Pegasus Crossings
Some other animals have been enlisted to help with pedestrian safety too. Pandas, pelicans and puffins, oh my! No, it’s not what you’re thinking –  roads are already zoo-y. They are the names of some techniques traffic engineers use to keep pedestrians separated and safe from vehicular traffic.

Pelican Crossing: Short for “pedestrian light controlled crossing“, (or pelicon) it morphed into ‘pelican crossing’. It has nothing to do with a real pelican. The same year as the Abbey Road album, the pelican crossing concept originated in the UK. A pair of standard traffic lights face oncoming traffic, while two illuminated pictograms face the pedestrian from across the road. A push button activates the traffic lights and signals to the pedestrian when it’s safe to “Walk”. The pelican crossing replaced a panda crossing experiment, which was unsuccessful. We’re not sure why.

Here are a few more road safety tools named after animals:

A Toucan Crossing signal

Puffin Crossing: like a pelican crossing, but lights are on the same side as the pedestrian. Due to less visibility when the pedestrian is in the intersection, it’s been discontinued.
Toucan Crossing: a crossing for pedestrians and bicycles; since ‘two-can’ cross, it became toucan; used in California and the UK. Cyclists can ride across.
Pegasus Crossing: a crossing for pedestrians, bicycles and horse riders as well; named after the mythical winged horse and used in the UK and Peru; may be useful during the Calgary Stampede?
Hawk Beacon: a standard signal used with zebra crossings, when a pedestrian pushes a button to cross, it illuminates to stop traffic, but goes dark unless activated

Upon reflection
Zebra stripes are a simple idea. They used to work pretty well. Except after a while, they fade, winter aggregates, snow plows take their toll. After oil-based paints were banned in 2012, the new ones didn’t work as well. Last year British Columbia tested a new type of paint on highways which undergo daily, rigorous maintenance. The paint is applied thicker, and glass bead can be added to the road guide lines to improve reflectivity. Over $1 million was spent applying the paint and glass bead on busy BC highways.

Our ministry’s first priority is to ensure that our highways and roads are as safe as possible — Todd Stone then BC Minister of Transportation told the CBC. (April 2017)

Problem is, over time, all these animal interventions become less effective. Even more so in urban centres, which are getting more congested with all forms of transportation. Humans cheat, cut corners, don’t push the button to cross, cyclists or drivers don’t see or obey the signals. Everyone is in a hurry. Increasingly, zebra crossings do not work to slow vehicles down and give priority to pedestrians, leading to unsafe behaviour.

Traffic engineers continue to come up with new ways improve safety in vulnerable crossing zones: LED lit school zone signs, speed reading signs and speed bumps. Combined with lower speed limits, crossing guards and traffic enforcement blitzes, they have been putting significant effort towards the Vision Zero goal.

And yet Vision Zero won’t work unless we change behavior of everyone using the road.

Come Together, We Can Be Heroes
Come Together was the first track on Abbey Road. It topped the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, and was one of The Beatles top 10 tunes. Many artists have done cover versions including Ike & Tina Turner and Michael Jackson. We think our Zero Hero campaign soundtrack should include Come Together by Gary Clark Jr  and Junkie XL from the 2017 superhero Justice League movie. David Bowie’s Heroes covered by Gang of Youths and Leonard Cohen’s Everybody Knows covered by Sigrid also from the movie’s soundtrack would be great too.

Everybody knows, let’s all come together, we can be (zero) heroes…and solve this.

Join us
There is more to be done to make it to zero. Join us as we explore and participate in figuring out what else we can do to help make roads safer.  Above all we think it will require more awareness and and shift in attitudes about safety.

We want to encourage as many schools, safety committees, companies and ordinary folks — whether walkers, riders or drivers– to do their part to make this preventable problem stop. Subscribe to follow this journey. If you wish to learn more about identity or insignia products, or how we could develop a customized ‘Zero Hero’ program for you, drop us a note.