Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall today released a report that examines road safety in British Columbia.
“Road safety is still a critical public-health issue,” said Kendall. “Any preventable death or serious injury is unacceptable, including those that occur as the result of a motor vehicle crash. Though B.C. has seen a notable two-thirds decrease in motor vehicle crash fatalities since 1996, we could still achieve lower rates of fatalities and serious injuries-especially in vulnerable road users. My report makes a number of evidence-based recommendations to reduce the burden of motor vehicle crashes on our health and improve road safety in British Columbia.”
“Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Reducing the Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes on Health and Well-being in BC” was developed using a wide variety of sources using the most current data available. It found that in British Columbia in 2011, more than 432,000 people were involved in a motor vehicle crash, resulting in 292 fatalities and 3,038 serious injuries. In 2012, the province's rate for serious injuries (444.5 per 100,000 population) was slightly lower than the Canadian average (475.3 per 100,000). In the same year, British Columbia’s rate for motor vehicle fatalities (6.2 per 100,000 population) was the fourth lowest in Canada and just slightly higher than the Canadian average (6.0 per 100,000); however, British Columbia’s rate is still more than double the rate of the world’s best performers.
Speed, impairment, and distraction were the top contributing factors recorded by police for motor vehicle crashes that resulted in fatalities in British Columbia between 2008 and 2012. Males are more likely to die from speed-related crashes than females, with the highest rates among males from age 16 to 45. Males also have the highest fatality rate from distraction-related crashes. Aboriginal people have a higher motor vehicle crash fatality rate than other residents; however, this gap has decreased over the last 20 years.
One third of fatalities in 2013 were vulnerable road users, which include pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists. Among vulnerable road users, pedestrians have the highest rates of fatalities; motorcyclists have the highest rate of hospitalizations. The highest potential for collisions between vehicles and between vehicles and vulnerable road users occurs at intersections.
Rural and remote areas, and rural highways are also hazardous due to the high speeds at which vehicles travel, fewer people to identify and report crashes when they do occur, and longer distances from emergency services when medical help is needed. In fact, a comparison of British Columbia’s health authorities presented in this report shows that while 15.9% of British Columbia’s population live in Interior Health, 38.8% of motor vehicle fatalities occur there. Similarly, only 6.3% of the B.C. population live in the Northern Health area but their proportion of vehicle crash fatalities is more than twice that.
There are 28 recommendations in the report that build upon British Columbia’s current successes and identify specific actions that government can take to improve road safety and reduce the rate of motor vehicle crashes, and related deaths and serious injuries. The recommendations are focused on taking strategic and comprehensive approach to road safety in British Columbia, including safe road users (such as driver behaviours and conditions), safe speeds, safe roadways, safe vehicles, improving road safety for Aboriginals, updating education and enforcement, and expanding research and data collection related to road safety. These recommendations endorse the B.C. Road Safety Strategy and its goal of achieving Vision Zero, with “the safest roads in North America and work toward an ultimate goal of zero traffic fatalities.”
“Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Reducing the Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes on Health and Well-being in BC” examines road safety from a combination of a population health approach, a public health approach and a safe system approach (SSA). The aim of an SSA is to reduce crashes through systems that recognize the inevitability of human error and that road safety is the shared responsibility of those who use the roads and those who design vehicles and road systems. An SSA is recommended by the World Health Organisation and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and has been adopted by several countries including Australia and New Zealand.
For the report and a list of the 28 recommendations, please visit: www.health.gov.bc.ca/pho/reports/annual.html