Failing grade on road safety

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Kids should give adults a failing grade on road safety

We should all get an “F” for failing grade on road safety. So far this year the goal of Vision Zero has fallen far short.

Good news was pointed out by Andre Picard, Globe & Mail health columnist. He used the same statistics we wrote about in our Zero Hero post in March:

The long term trend of motor-vehicle fatalities in Canada is dropping overall– down almost 50 per cent in the past two decades –  Andre Picard, April 9, 2018

Writing about the horrific bus crash in Humbolt, Saskatchewan, he pointed out some of the positive reasons why those stats are improving – like seat belts and air bags and crash-resistant cars.

Impact of building better cars
2018 Volvo XC60 gets top IIHS safety rating Auto manufacturers get a B, since they took quite a while to make safety a priority over speed and style. Nowadays, the array of sophisticated mandatory and optional safety features on vehicles is extensive and in high demand from car buyers.

The auto industry has turned a perceived threat of extra costs consumers don’t really want, into desirable features expected by most car buyers.

MotorTrend writes the 2018 Volvo XC60 as the top-rated vehicle for safety from the IIHS. The Volvo brand is synonymous with safety. Why do we still have so many crashes? Picard points to the way we perceive ‘accidents’ as inevitable, not preventable may have something to do with it.

We have not so much made roads safer as we have made vehicles and their occupants better able to withstand crashes that we deem inevitable.

TheEating, adjusting the radio, talking to passengers are top distractions for drivers and get failing grade on road safetyy are not inevitable. Each of the three main causes of motor-vehicle crashes: impairment with alcohol and drugs, speeding and distracted driving are all preventable. Distracted driving in particular is now the #1 risk on Canadian roads.

Distracted drivers get a failing grade on road safety, for contributing to 8 in 10 collisions.

Road psychology
We make no claim to have expertise or insight into the thinking of drivers. What Picard highlights, and statistics back up, is that driver decisions are a key factor in crashes.

Giving vehicle occupants a false sense of security, we wondered if these motor vehicle design improvements may have caused more pedestrian and cyclist injuries too? Cyclists have little more than paint on the road and a helmet. Pedestrians, even less.

It seems counter-intuitive, but it may explain the psychology and behavior of drivers. The proportion of incidents involving those more vulnerable on the road has gone up. Looking at it another way, safety developments are one-sided in favour of vehicles. That is why municipalities have tried to intervene with various ways of engineering roads to reduce the risk of vehicle-pedestrian or vehicle-cyclist collisions. (more on those efforts in our next post)

Driven to distraction
So we’re going to throw some more numbers at you. (We will try not to make this a habit)

mobile phones a big cause of increased distracted driving a failing grade on road safety


That equals 84.6 phones for every 100 people.  This is from a 2017 report by the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA). We don’t know how many are in use while driving, but the reported crash causes speak for themselves.

94 per cent of crashes are attributable to human error or bad choices

Distracted driving is now more lethal than impaired driving. Distracted drivers get a failing grade for road safety.  It is preventable by a change in behavior behind the wheel. Put the phone down, turn it off, or put it in the trunk if you cannot resist glancing at it. That split second distraction could cost a life – yours, or those who just happen to be around you at that moment. We encourage drivers to change their attitude to get an A+ in road safety.

The lesson: no matter how well built the car, it cannot stop drivers from making an error in judgement.

Let’s learn the lesson from Humbolt Broncos tragedy
As the tragedy of Humbolt Broncos fades from headlines, single injuries and deaths by motor vehicle keep happening one by one. They are not always given media attention. Mr. Picard’s plain spoken truth keeps us motivated to continue working on our own ‘Zero Hero’ project to find small things which can grab attention, change bad behaviour, and make it stop.

We have to recognize that human-driven vehicles are a significant public-health risk, one that needs to be managed and, ultimately, eliminated. Too many lives, young lives, are being lost. The carnage of the car age has gone on far too long.

Let’s work harder in memory of those young men who’s lives were lost or changed forever. We can all take part in encouraging better behaviour by anyone using our roads. Help reverse the failing grade on road safety.

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.