SASKATOON – In 2013, Saskatchewan led the the country in motor vehicle fatalities. In the winter months we have the same snow, same temperatures and the same road systems as many parts of the country and yet the our casualty rates are twice even three times higher than the rest of Canada.
“Saskatchewan has the highest fatality and collision rates of any province or territory in Canada except Nunavut,” said Carl Kuhnke, transportation and infrastructure expert with the University of Saskatchewan.
Provincial road warriors are perhaps on the end of a losing battle by braving whatever comes at us and it would appear on a global scale we’re not faring too well on that front either.
A new study by two Canadian doctors is calling on improvements to winter road safety across the nation after comparing our traffic fatality rates to countries with similar winter weather.
The report by the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed “adverse road conditions in cold weather contribute to 12 per cent of traffic fatalities and injuries” and that Canada had twice as many population-adjusted traffic deaths as Sweden.
“Nobody wants friends, families, relatives in a morgue or a hospital but unfortunately other jurisdictions in the world have better engineering, better enforcement and better education than we do,” added Kuhnke.
In Sweden, winter tires were made mandatory if winter road conditions apply so from Oct. 1 to April 15, studded tires are the norm.
“In Canada we have no federal jurisdiction because of our Constitution so all provinces apply their own rules differently. In Quebec, if you do not have full winter tires on your car by October 1st like Sweden, they pull you’re car off the road.”
Tire legislation may be difficult to enforce if mandated province by province. Kuhnke points out bordering cities like Lloydminster would be extremely challenging if Saskatchewan were to make it compulsory and Alberta didn’t.
The study also suggested that we as motorists are responsible for winter road safety.
“Crashes year-round often occur from factors that are under our control: excessive speed, distraction, impairment and failure to wear seat belts.”
In response to bad driving behaviours, the physicians want to see seasonal variations in speed limits that have proven successful in Europe and education for drivers on the basics of safe winter driving.
With nearly 900,000 kilometres of road in Canada, the report also calls for a more standard approach to winter road maintenance.
For example, crews in Ontario have eight hours to restore major highways to bare pavement after a storm. In Saskatchewan, highways with a daily traffic count of 1,500 motorists or more have to be cleared within six hours.
“Clear roads cause fewer accidents, it’s that simple,” said Kuhnke.
Lastly, the study recommend that motorists rethink their expectations when it comes to winter travel. Each winter, there are a few days when roadways are unsafe and it should be acceptable to skip that trip to the office, the doctor or school.
According to Kuhnke, more salt would help along with bigger snow removal budgets.
“In the province of Saskatchewan are snow removal and snow clearance budgets less per capita than other comparative cities across Canada? Absolutely,” he said.
“If you’re starting at a low level and you don’t bite the bullet at some point, you will never catch up.”
© 2016 Shaw Media