March 31, 2016 5:08 pm
Updated: March 31, 2016 9:46 pm

Speed and distracted driving top factors in B.C.’s fatal crashes: report

WATCH: If British Columbia's top health official has his way it will take you longer to get from "here" to "there". As Rumina Daya reports, the Provincial Health Officer wants 50-kilometre-an-hour speed limits lowered to 30.

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A top provincial health officer says road safety is still a critical public health issue in B.C.

In a report released today on road safety, Dr. Perry Kendall says speed and impaired or distracted driving were the top contributing factors for deadly crashes in B.C. between 2008 and 2012.

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Although the province has had a noticeable decrease in motor vehicle crash fatalities, by two-thirds, since 1996, Kendall says the numbers could still be lower, especially in “vulnerable road users.” In 2013, one third of fatalities were vulnerable road users including pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.

On the same day as Kendall’s report, which found the highest potential for collisions between vehicles and vulnerable road users is at intersections, Vancouver police are investigating the 5th pedestrian fatality.

Some key findings in Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Reducing the Impact of Motor Vehicles Crashes on Health and Well-being in B.C. showed men aged 16 to 45 are more likely to die in speed-related crashes than women and men are also more likely to be killed in distraction-related collisions.

In 2011, more than 432,000 people were involved in a car crash that resulted in 292 fatalities and more than 3,000 serious injuries.

How does B.C. compare nationally?

In 2012, the province’s rate for serious injuries was slightly lower than the Canadian average and B.C.’s rate for vehicle fatalities was the fourth lowest in Canada and just slightly better than the Canadian average.

But, Kendall noted that B.C.’s rate is still more than double than the world’s best performers.

Drivers in rural and remote areas of B.C.

Highways in rural and remote areas are hazardous for several reasons, according to the report. Travelling at high speeds, fewer people identifying and reporting crashes when they do occur and longer distances from emergency services if medical help is needed, are all contributing factors.

When comparing health authorities, the report shows that while almost 16 per cent of B.C.’s population live in the Interior Health region, almost 39 per cent of vehicle fatalities occurs there. Echoing that is the Northern Health region, where only 6.3 per cent of the B.C. population resides but their number of vehicle fatalities is more than twice that number.

Decrease in numbers reflects work

Transportation Minister Todd Stone attributed the downward trend in fatalities and injuries to “all the positive work that has been undertaken to improve road safety in the province.”

Along with improved road safety, Stone said in a statement that stricter penalties and enforcement for drinking and driving coupled with highway improvements and education over the past 15 years have played a significant role in reducing crashes.

“While traffic fatalities and serious injuries have been dropping, we know there is always more we can do,” Stone said.

“Government is also planning to strengthen our distracted driving penalties, as this has become one of the top contributing factors to death and injury on our roads. An announcement is expected in the coming weeks… And over the next three years, we will invest $2.7 billion to further improve B.C.’s transportation network — a B.C. on the Move commitment.”

When asked about reintroducing photo radar to the province, Stone told Global News it was a “failed program” and a tax grab and there are better ways to use police resources.

As for reducing default speed limits from 50 km/h to 30 km/h, he says there will be no movement unless there is a strong endorsement and an “ask” from local governments, which is not there so far.

There are 28 recommendations in the report that identify specific actions that the government can take to improve road safety and reduce the number of vehicle crashes. The full version can be read HERE.

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