December 30, 2015 3:20 pm
Updated: December 30, 2015 9:13 pm

Edmonton traffic deaths up 50%; police chief calls it ‘tremendous concern’

WATCH ABOVE: It's been a deadly year on Edmonton roads. The number of traffic deaths in 2015 is up from last year. Julia Wong takes a closer look at the numbers.

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EDMONTON – The number of traffic fatalities in Edmonton has increased by 50 per cent over last year.

The number of deaths this year stands at 35, according to Anna Batchelor, spokesperson for the Edmonton Police Service. The number includes vehicles colliding with other vehicles, pedestrians and even inanimate objects such as telephone poles and trees.

There were 23 traffic fatalities in 2014, 26 fatalities in 2013 and 29 fatalities in 2012.

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READ MORE: Motorcyclist dies in Edmonton’s second traffic fatality in less than 24 hours

Sgt. James McLeod with the Major Collisions Investigation Unit said the traffic deaths can be attributed to impaired driving, excessive speed, as well as the growth of the city.

“We want it to go down,” he said.

“It will probably continue to stay the same if not incrementally go up as time goes on. I would like to see it less. We don’t like going to family homes and knocking on doors and advising next of kin about what’s happened.”

Police Chief Rod Knecht said traffic continues to be the number one issue for Edmontonians and for the police force.

“That’s a tremendous concern for us,” he told Global News during a year-end interview.

“We know we’ve got better legislation, distracted driving legislation, and I’ll continue to advocate for stronger legislation in certain areas.”

READ MORE: Edmonton woman charged with careless driving following fatal collision

Knecht said he wants to keep the dialogue open with the public about how to keep Edmontonians safe, but suggested traffic enforcement comes at a cost.

“We’re going to keep everybody safe. Are we going to stop doing the nice-to-do, the nicer priority things? It’s economics 101. If you focus here, some other things have to drop off the table,” he said.

The City of Edmonton has a long-term strategy to reduce the number of traffic fatalities in the city to zero.

Laura Thue, senior research coordinator for the Office of Traffic Safety for the City of Edmonton, said the drop to zero is realistic. She said a major culture shift is needed though.

“We’ve done it to impaired driving to a certain extent. We have seen a reduction in alcohol impaired driving over the years. We need to now change people’s attitudes and behaviours as it relates to speed and distraction,” she said.

Student driver Malindi Pilgrim, 16, said she does not see many safe drivers on the road.

“I feel like they have a time and place to be at,” she said. “They just speed and they’re very reckless. They swerve in and out of lanes.”

She admits she is scared to drive on the roads in Edmonton; she plans to put her phone away and stay alert to avoid any traffic incidents.

Her instructor Rajinder Bajwa, the owner of A & J Driving School, said drivers need to be accountable to one another.

But he does not think the problem lies with Edmontonians and their driving habits.

“I don’t think it’s just Edmonton. It is overall. We just have to be aware of our surroundings,” he said.

 

 

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