There is a troubling increase in traffic fatalities and injuries on Ontario roadways and it will take a concerted effort on the part of all drivers to help reduce this alarming trend.
At the halfway point of this year, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) warned the 2023 could end up being "another notably tragic year on roads."
By late June, 150 people had been killed on provincial highways, higher than in the same period last year when there were 125 road deaths.
"Drivers are reminded that even one careless action behind the wheel is all it takes to cause a split-second, serious collision that ends a life and robs a family of a loved one under the worst and most unexpected circumstances," the OPP stated in a news release.
Sadly, the message failed to have the impact that was intended. Six people were killed on Ontario roads during the August long weekend last month.
An OPP blitz on that weekend focusing on poor driving behaviours resulted in more than 7,700 charges being laid, including 4,341 for speeding, 182 for impaired driving and 43 charges for distracted driving. Police also ticketed 369 people for not wearing a seatbelt.
Accidents Trending Up From 2020.
Traffic accidents are, unfortunately, inevitable. Transport Canada states that this country's road network spans 900,000 kilometres – enough to get to the moon and back. The government also reports there were 26.2 million registered vehicles on those roadways so collisions will happen.
Accidents appear to be trending upward in recent years. In 2020 Transport Canada reported a small decrease in the number of fatalities and serious injuries, along with a significant decrease in the number of injuries.
In 2020 there were:
- 1,745 motor vehicle fatalities, down one per cent from 2019;
- 7,868 serious injuries, compared to 8,917 the previous year; and
- 101,572 total injuries, down 28 per cent from 2019.
A year later, the government reported an increase in all three of those statistics.
Studies indicate that the COVID-19 pandemic led to a decrease in accidents. Certainly, there were fewer automobiles on the roads during lockdowns but it was also reported that more open roads led to more speeding.
In fact, AM Best, a data analytics provider, found that while the frequency of auto insurance claims declined, claim severity increased. There is also a concern that because speeds climbed on open roads during pandemic lockdowns, aggressive driving would continue as traffic returned to pre-pandemic levels.
Many Accidents Are Preventable.
It should not come as a surprise that traffic accidents would rise as drivers returned to the road after lockdowns. However, many of the injuries and deaths could have been prevented with a little common sense. For example, police say they have noticed a failure to wear seatbelts has led to a spike in fatalities.
"We have a very high compliance rate, but yet we still see seatbelts as one of the leading causes of death and injury," Sgt. Kerry Schmidt told the Toronto Sun. "So, it really is a concerning trend that doesn't seem to go away, along with alcohol, drugs and aggressive driving, (which are) kind of the number one killers out there."
The leading causes of traffic accidents are distracted driving, impaired driving, speeding and aggressive driving. All are preventable.
Distracted driving is arguably the leading cause of collisions in Canada. The Canadian Automobile Association reported last year that almost eight in 10 Canadian drivers, or 79 per cent, admit to being distracted while driving. Phones are one of the biggest distractions.
To avoid distracted driving, the CAA suggests:
- Setting your playlist, podcast, safety features, whatever you can, before you drive.
- Setting the GPS and review directions before driving.
- Setting your phone to do not disturb.
- Stowing and securing loose objects.
- Avoid eating and drinking while driving.
Injuries Can Be Painful And Permanent.
Injury and death are unavoidable facts of life. If you have been involved in an automobile accident, either as a motorist, passenger, pedestrian or cyclist, you may not know what to do next.
Collisions are traumatic and it can be difficult to remain calm. After an accident, you should get out of your vehicle when it is safe to do so if you are able. If you or anyone else needs immediate attention, call 911. Do not try to move a seriously injured person. That may aggravate their injuries.
You may be panicked after an accident and want to flee. Don't. It is an offence if you fail to remain at the scene of an accident.
You should begin gathering information immediately if it is safe to do so. Exchange license and insurance documents, talk to any witnesses and get their information. If you suspect the other driver is impaired by drug or alcohol do not confront them. Call police. It may also be necessary to call police if the other driver does not have the necessary information.
If you have your cellular phone with you, take photos of the vehicles including the other driver's license plate. Take photos or video of the location of the automobiles in relation to one another, road signs and traffic signals and any other relevant details. Also photograph surface conditions of the road. If possible, take notes about the accident while they are fresh in your mind.
Don't Take A Chance With Your Future.
Just because you haven't suffered an injury that is not immediately apparent, such as a broken bone, doesn't mean you haven't been injured. Soft tissue injuries, which occur in the muscles, tendons and ligaments, can be initially overlooked. It can be difficult to diagnose these injuries and it is not uncommon for symptoms to develop later. Don't ignore pain believing it will eventually go away. A soft tissue can leave you unable to work or enjoy life.
If you have been injured in a car accident, no matter how minor, you may be entitled to damages for pain and suffering, loss of earnings, past and future loss of income and out -of-pocket expenses not covered by insurance.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.